Hustle season 8 episode 1

 

Hustle's back for its eighth and final series. Watch your wallets...

 

3 stars

 

 

The Hustle team return for series 8

 

Air date: UK: 13 Jan 2012, BBC1, 9pm

 

Given it has the depth of a Pringle and characters stay more stationary than Ayres Rock, Hustle has had a long soak in the sunshine of BBC One primetime.

 

Tony Jordan's hyper-slick, uber-airbrushed and super-strutting long-con drama debuted in 2004 and has survived jumping cast members and a recession which threatened to make Hustle's brand of affluence porn seem insensitively out of touch.

 

And so it returns for its farewell series.

 

Mickey meets his nemesis

Given the rigid formula of Hustle's sleight of hand plotting, it's a credit to Jordan for stringing it out this long. Yet it was beginning to show some creative fatigue last series and so, while giving it a polite clap for getting this far without boring us, the time feels right to retire this gang and the Hustle name.

 

Sadly, this season opener is an example of Hustle at its laziest, and rather justifies Kudos' decision to click the off switch.

 

Paterson Joseph plays Dexter Gold, a gold dealer who's duped by the gang into buying half a million quid's worth of supposedly stolen Libyan gold (full marks for topicality there, Tony).

 

Hustle's always prided itself on its scam victims being dosh-hugging, misanthropic scuzzbuckets with a shit-eating smile, but it works better when there's a slither of intelligence in there as well.

 

Mickey's long-cons are intricately figured and autistically mathematical in their precision. Hustle is at its intellectual best when their target stands a chance of figuring it all out.

 

Like Columbo, Mickey needs a mind as needle-sharp as his to manipulate. When their victim is so colossally - and comically - gormless that all they have to do to ensnare him is flash an unmelted gold slab in a duffle bag (really, how often in normal life do you ever see that?), then it just hoovers up any drama.

 

He's an idiot. Thus there's no chance he'll ever begin to twig that suddenly a lot of coincidences seem to be happening around him.

 

None of this is helped by the lamest-arse B-plot Hustle's ever mustered.

 

Hustle

A sub-story where Eddie has barred the gang for defacing a picture of his footballing hero, Ian Rush, might have worked set against a muscular main plot, but when it's as daisyweight as this one is, the whole thing collapses under its own sorry vacuity.

 

I say all this as a fan who has stuck with Hustle through the thick and the thin and been more forgiving of it than some. But while the presentation still shimmers, on the strength of this one (and first episodes are usually the best pushed up front), it may have gone on one series too long already.

 

There may well be life yet in the dog. Maybe it's Hustle greatest trick by making us think it's already dead...

 

Steve O'Brien

 

 

Hustle season 8 episode 1
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