This review contains spoilers.
7.2 Old Sparks Come New
Last week I had something of a downer on Hustle, thanks to an exceptionally lacklustre opening story. I’ve decided that a really good Hustle story requires a mark that’s beyond any redemption, a twist where the con goes wrong at some point, and it needs to have its dramatic tongue firmly in its cheek.
Which is exactly what Old Sparks Come New delivered, delivering possibly the most entertaining Hustle story in a while.
The chosen villain was something of an easy target, but when you see companies advertising on TV where they admit their loans have an interest rate of more than 3,000%, then you’re inclined to think that legally sanctioned robbery is being committed in our midst.
But then at the heart of this story is also a subplot about the morality of what grifters actually do, and how they rationalise it to themselves, and others. In Hustle we’re asked to believe that conmen have a strict code of ethics and an unshakeable confidence in their craft, but in this one Emma starts to wonder about the path she’s on, and if it’s the right one. This was so well built into the story, I did wonder for a moment if Kelly Adams was actually being written out, but they shied away from that narrative jump in the final act.
The strength of this Hustle lies in two areas: the exceptionally funny pantomime villainess, Georgina Althorp, played by Angela Griffin, and the choice to get out of London and their imaginative use of Birmingham as a backdrop to the proceedings.
Angela Griffin was excellent, but she was unfortunately upstaged by Robert Glenister, who, in the scenes where he was imitating an especially vile business owner who had hit hard times, entirely ate the scenery in overbite chunks and then spat it out.
But the stand-out moment for me was when the con went slightly awry following Georgina’s demand to view the stately home that she thinks she’s buying. Their flashback explanation of how they got all the viewing public out of the house and gardens was masterful, and had me chuckling for hours afterwards.
What also made me laugh was the brilliantly underplayed conversations between Rob Jarvis (Eddie) and Robert Vaughn (Albert). Vaughn didn’t say much, but emoted plenty as Eddie rambled on about some of the girlfriends he’d been forced to drop in the past. This is where Hustle can be quite subtle on occasion, and it enhances my viewing enjoyment significantly.
Overall, this was so much better than the series opener, and I’m now invigorated with anticipation for the rest of season 7. Having taken in the architectural splendour of Brum, I’m curious where they’re going to take us next? Liverpool, Manchester or Newcastle?
For me, it doesn’t matter, as long as they don’t do what ATV always did in the sixties, where they put stock footage up with the label ‘Cario’ or ‘Rio De Janeiro’ before cutting to a bar set they’d made in 20 minutes out of cardboard in a shed at Shepperton Studios.
Next week, Mickey and the gang go hunting in a casino, which sounds a very natural habitat for them.
Read our review of the series 7 opener, As Good As It Gets, here.
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