Hustle series 7 episode 3 review: Clearance From A Deal

Hustle goes to the casino in hope of winning some family honour for Albert…

This review may contain spoilers.

7.3 Clearance From A Deal

As a TV and film reviewer, it’s often my job to jump on stories that don’t make sense or have plot holes so large you could fit an Olympic stadium (any one, take your pick!) through them.

If I was to review Clearance From A Deal on that basis, then I’d be pulling it to pieces, because there is a revelation in the final act that jumps the shark and wrestles it between two slices of bread, before announcing it as a daily special at Subway.

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But I don’t care, oddly, because this was a charming piece of entertainment that had me giggling throughout, even if it was utter hokum from the very beginning to end.

It all starts in the 1800s, where Albert Stroller’s great grandfather is accused of being a cheat by two brothers who run a floating gambling house on the Mississippi. This is the trigger for a story about a relative of the brothers and how Albert wants redemption for his wrongly maligned ancestor.

Mickey and Albert run up at a new casino, to be greeted by their chosen nemesis, Marcus Wendell. He’s played by Michael Brandon, whom the older generation of UK viewers will remember from Dempsey And Makepeace. Unfortunately, he’s not got Glynis Barber on hand, and is therefore forced to lay the ham thickly without her contributions.

The variation on the normal Hustle plot is that he’s fully aware he’s the mark, and who Mickey’s team are, so the cards are all played above the table, in one respect. But then anyone who knows this show will have realised that a good audience con won’t work if they actually give you 360 vision, and so plenty is held in reserve for when you think they’ve entirely mucked up. You know they’ve not instinctively, because this is Hustle, and they’ve rarely confronted failure, as such, and certainly not at this level.

Michael Brandon isn’t the only guest face this week. They’ve also seconded Roger Lloyd Pack (Trigger in Only Fools And Horses) to be a stroppy forger called Clive. There are some hints of developing this character into more than a cameo by some needless interplay between him and Matt Di Angelo’s Sean, but I doubt it will materialise.

Which begs the question, why did I like it? Two words, Robert Vaughn.

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This is the most we’ve seen from him in a story in some time, and he’s just magical to watch. When I saw him in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as a child, he never stood out as a great actor, but I’ve since come to appreciate his work. If you’re unconvinced, then I’d check him out in Bullitt, and he’s not bad at all in The Magnificent Seven or The Bridge At Remagen.

In this story, he manages to put an underlying tension and grit into Albert’s family pride that makes what’s at stake and up for grabs that bit more interesting.

The snag, as I’ve already alluded to, is that, when the twist comes, there was much head scratching in my lounge, as we tried to work out any plausible excuse for the narrative Snake River Canyon jump we’d just witnessed. Hustle didn’t just bend reality on this occasion. It turned it into a pretzel of time and space.

If you’re looking for joined up logic, then this probably isn’t the show for you, but if you can stow the sense finding part of your mind for an hour, then Hustle can be a scream.

I was left feeling good about the contributions made by Robert Vaughn, even if he and the other cast members have probably given up asking obvious questions of the writers right after receiving the script.

Read our review of episode 2, Old Sparks Come New, here.

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