This review contains spoilers. You can catch the episode here
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“He has a parrot named Goldie”
I am delighted that Hustle has been commissioned for their eighth series and the first episode hit our TV screens on the 13th January 2012. For those new to Hustle; the clue is in the name. We follow a group of con artists who specialise in the long con rather than your usual parlour tricks in the hope of higher gain. The twist with Hustle is that the group of con artists are essentially the good guys, they dish out justice with meticulousness and style. Hustle is an episodic program with no particular overarching story plot line. If you are a fan of such works as The A-Team, The Sting, The Grifters as well as Hollywood big hitters Ocean's Eleven and Mission: Impossible chances are you will love Hustle.
We join Mickey Brick's men with much aplomb mid con. It is rather amusing to see the team get flustered by the girl's lack of knowledge or regard of various famous athletes. It is a great moment to see the old school Ash Morgan gone trendy suggest Justin Bieber to save the day. The rich colours and the slick cast with a bouncing soundtrack before we are waltzed away to their opening credits really set the tone for their first 2012 episode.
Hustle has always managed to be topical and the team have been busy selling non existent executive boxes and three Olympic torch runs and the reference to Gaddafi and Libya are also recent occurrences. I love Eddie and so do the team as they waste no time teasing Eddie (Rob Jarvis). I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let me introduce the current team. We start with the three senior members: Michael 'Micky Bricks' Stone (Adrian Lester) the cool headed suave brains behind the operation, next we have Ash "Three Socks" Morgan (Robert Glenister) who plays the fixer, and Albert Stroller (Robert Vaughn) who first taught Michael stone everything that he knew, and he seems to be rather skilled with just about every game and trick in the casino. They are flanked by the younger and less experienced Sean and Emma Kennedy played by Matt Di Angelo and Kelly Adams respectively. They play the fresh faced, bright eyed and sexy roles, often being the seducer or an eye catching waiter, whatever roles that Michael and co deem fit for them to do.
Back to Eddie, and O how Eddie has grown with his dear Ian Rush picture defiled by one of the team he bars the group till one of them owns up to the crime. I love 'the banter and general abuse' between the group and Eddie and this is no different. It would also seem Eddie is spot on with his analysis that the group are just 'big kids' as we find out that actually Sean, Albert and Micky himself was in on the gag! It's wonderful comedy relief.
Back to business, Albert has a mark for us: Dexter Pratt aka Dexter Gold who made a small fortune conning poor folks out of jewellery by paying out just a fraction of what they were worth in particular Albert's acquaintance Vivienne who has had her gold conned. It would also seem that Dexter is not just a normal thug but also a middle man for stolen gold bullion in which he uses his 'Gold Hard Cash' front to launder the gold for cash. Dexter then is no ordinary crook but also mixes with gangsters which make the job dangerous for Micky Brick's crew. The episode very early on introduces Heinz Zimmerman a German gold buyer who asks no question and has a lot of money.
Dexter (Paterson Joseph) is a loud, brash and not too bright of a man and if that wasn't bad enough he is a rude sexist who preys on the vulnerable. Now if that isn't worthy enough of a mark then I don't know what is. The trademark cut scenes of the team at work is a welcome return as they set on using an already existing newspaper story of some stolen Libyan gold bullion as their back story. Hustle has always been very careful to make sure that the team follow the philosophy that they only con the rich and the evil and the philosophy is not betrayed here as the team pursue their usual careful research. One criticism I have is that Dexter never really comes through as ever being close to threatening the group despite his contacts he just seems too dim.
Hustle has always been a light hearted show with its focus on the heist itself which leaves a lot of room for the show to build character development. After all the majority of the cast has had more than 8 series together with the Kennedy siblings joining in series 5 there is a real sense of camaraderie between the team. The actors and actresses deliver their lines and do a really good job of making Hustle entertaining and endearing their characters to their viewer. My favourite has to be Ash Morgan (Robert Glenister) whose facial expressions and razor sharp lines are all delivered with poise and polish and is often the highlight of many a Hustle episode.
Dexter Gold/Pratt notice how Pratt may well be an in joke at how much of a prat Dexter is and although this is the case I have got to say Dexter is actually likeable in that he was enjoyable to watch, his dance and his over obvious leering at women are fun to watch (The daydream sequence of Emma covered in gold is literally gold) If anything you feel a little sorry for him as he runs back to the con artists who he still unwittingly believes are special black ops to hand over yet more cash to run a kill order on Zimmerman. Hustle never takes itself too seriously and their caricature of this gold dealer is spot on and entertaining to watch.
There is a distinct football flavour to this episode as the sub plot of Eddie is in full swing in the background. Hustle has always had a flair at running several different cons/plot lines at the same time and this time the group who are busy handling the gold dealer attempt to be unbarred from Eddies Bar so that they can have their breakfasts again (apparently none of the crew can cook!). I laughed at Ash's comment at West Ham's bounce from Premiership to Championship as a rest before launching the next assault on the Premiership and although you had to be a football fan to get the joke it is a brilliant line. The conundrum for the group is that Ash actually had nothing to do with the doodling on Eddie's precious Ian Rush picture but Eddie himself does not believe it is anyone else but him and Ash being the proud man he is refuses to apologise. Hustle fans will almost immediately realise that the team are running a con on Ash himself as they record his words. I loved the reveal on this con as Eddie hugs an awkward Ash for being the bigger man 'I respect you... as a man'.
Hustle always has a twist and always leaving out one piece of the puzzle with which they can bedazzle the viewer and this is where Hustle shines revealing camera angles we never saw. Albert was first talking to Heinz Zimmerman the dry sophisticated german known as Paul when he spots the crying Vivienne. Heinz subsequently has been in on the act since the very beginning and sees it through with ketchup on his shirt.
This is a light hearted and enjoyable episode. It is a wonderful return to form for Micky Brick's crew and as Eddie says very aptly 'I've missed you guys'. Amongst the gold littered puns, the exaggerated Dexter Gold and the lovable Eddie Hustle glitters away with a heart warming and entertaining episode. I look forward to what the crew can do and how clever Hustle can be.