I discovered this gem while searching through Prime Instant Video, and after reading the glowing reviews I thought I would give it a well deserved try. I could tell from the first scene that this show would be my cup of tea, and within two days I had gorged myself on the entire series. Micky Stone is one of the best long con artists (a long con is an elaborate confidence trick that requires plenty of planning and preparation, as well as a longer period of time to complete the con) in the country, and he decides to pull in his old team for one last time before he retires. Before he knows it though, he has also recruited a new member, short con artist Danny Blue, whom he is now also mentor to. This light, funny and interesting show makes for great television, and who knows, you might even learn enough to spot when you are being conned yourself! I highly recommend this show, and I am looking forward to getting my teeth in the second series.
Hustle Season One
As many of you will know I am a big TV series fan. Having just finished 'Dexter' Season seven, 'Homeland' Season two, and 'Breakout Kings', amongst others I felt like watching some old favourites. My girlfriend hasn't seen '24, so I am going to re-watch the whole series. I have also got my hands on the seventies series 'The Fantastic Journey'. I then remembered that I hadn't watched season seven and eight of Hustle, which I was saving for a rainy day. Being the perfectionist that I am when it comes to watching shows, I felt that I had to start all over with Hustle, so I did.
This is my review of season one which aired in 2004, believe it or not. The first episode went out on February the twenty-fourth. I will give my usual overview on each episode but will not give away any spoilers. Too many blow by blow accounts of movies are being churned out lately and are not reviews in my opinion. Anyway, back to Hustle Season One; let's take a look at the idea behind the show.
The Premise and Production
Hustle was an innovative drama from the BBC and was produced by the makers of Spooks and written by Tony Jordan. Hustle follows the fortunes of a gang of five expert con artists as they wheel and deal there way around London. The difference with this gang is that they don't con the honest man. They only take money off genuinely bad people with no morals. Each episode comprises of a main plot or 'long con' whilst also squeezing in some sub plots known as 'short cons'.
Michael Stone or 'Mickey Bricks' as he is known to friends is a legend in the art of the long con. He has been away for two years in prison for an unrelated crime and he is looking to get the old gang back together. Starting with Albert Stroller who is the groups 'roper' and finds the marks for the cons, Mickey starts the ball rolling. Next he finds Ash 'Three Socks 'Morgan who is the 'fixer' and an expert in finding settings for the con and a master of disguise. He then tracks down Stacie Monroe who is another top grafter like Stone but revels in her role as the 'lure' and is the only female member of the group. The final member of the group has been screened by Albert and is sent in a roundabout way to meet Mickey. Danny Blue is accepted into the group after turning up at the first long con and making it plain he would be an asset to them.
The series sees the group pull a number of long cons including some ingenious double crosses.
Many innovative series have used asides in their episodes or made the audience feel that they are in on the plot. Hustle takes it a step further with characters actually interacting with the viewer and 'letting them in' on the joke or con. This is known as 'breaking the fourth wall'. The fourth wall was a concept that was used in theatres and was basically a box set aside from the rest of the stage or sometimes slap-bang in the middle of it to let the audience see what was occurring from an insider viewpoint. The brilliant Fox series '24'used a split screen similar to that of the old Tony Curtis movie 'The Boston Strangler'. It enabled the show to give viewers a peek at what was going on in three or four places at once. Hustle is famous for the screen freezing and we see all the characters frozen in time; some of them while pouring drinks or biting into food. While the screen is frozen, one or more of the central characters still moves around the setting freely and fills the audience in on what could happen or what is about to happen.
My favourite part of Hustle is the fact that the characters smirk at you or wink when a con is about to happen or something falls into place. This makes you feel like you are part of it and brings you closer to the characters.
Each episode is filmed as a long con and we follow the crew through each deception from start to finish, from the choosing of the mark or marks to the completion of the con. Each episode also amounts to a confidence game played upon the viewers through the use of misdirection and hidden plot details that are revealed at the end of the story. This ensures that Hustle keeps the viewer guessing and is fast paced. Not everything is as it seems most of the time and regular viewers are used to this and revel in trying to work out what is going on. Not all cons are successful, and some episodes focus on the characters dealing with the consequences of their actions when things do go wrong. In addition to one long con, each episode features a number of short cons played by the major characters on members of the public; sometimes these are part of the long con in that they need to raise money in order for it to become possible. . The short cons demonstrate the seemingly endless array of tricks professional con men possess and the ease with which short cons can be played and also give the viewer a great insight into some of the characters, there strong points and, in some cases, their weaknesses.
Each episode can be watched as a stand-alone episode and in theory could be watched out of sequence, but I wouldn't advise this. Firstly, it is one of my pet hates and I'll never understand how someone can read a book that is third in a series and then go back and read the first; and then have the cheek to say it didn't make sense. There are on-going storylines for the characters in Hustle and they are best watched in order to keep up with what has happened.
The title sequence, created by Berger & Wyse, was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award (2005), a BAFTA (2006) and an Emmy (2007). The title music, composed by Simon Rogers was also nominated for the Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music Emmy in 2007. I love the title music and sequence as it is a throw-back to the old seventies shows and a great tune.
Broadcast of Hustle has been a massive success for the BBC with the figures showing ratings of between five and six million for all eight seasons. There may yet still be more seasons made and I for one hope so but one thing for sure is the fact that a movie is being made and will be filmed by a major US studio. Tony Jordan the series creator and writer, is penning the script for the movie.
Cast and Characters
Michael Stone - played by Adrian Lester
Michael Stone or Mickey Bricks as he is known in the grifting fraternity is a shrewd con artist who prefers the long con as opposed to the much faster and less fruitful short con. The group's leader and 'inside man'. An ambitious, intelligent and driven conman. Stone regrets having to have watched his father struggle to make an honest living for many years, before dying just prior to his retirement that he had looked forward to his whole life. Stone is presented as a world-renowned long-con expert with a careful eye for detail and for studiously getting every detail down pat. Several episodes reveal romantic tension between Stone and Stacie and it is rumoured that he and Stacie were once an item. He is like a big brother to Danny Blue and is always on his back about doing it right as Danny has a much more languid approach to some of the cons. He is the pivotal character of this first series and the bind that holds the group together. Lester's play to the camera is superb in the one on one techniques used.
Danny Blue - played by Marc Warren
Lacking a particular role within the group, Danny Blue is trying to prove himself constantly in this first series. A seasoned short-con artist, Danny's brash self-appointment to the group forms the overall plot arc of the first series; after proving his loyalty he is allowed to stay on and learn from Mickey, who is a legend that Danny admires greatly, having heard tales of him around the grifter circuit. Later series explore his challenge to Stone's authority and contrast his spontaneous and self-assured grifting style with Stone's careful attention to detail but this first series is most like his coming of age series. Danny can find himself in some hilarious and embarrassing situations. Warren is a superb actor who was relatively unknown before Hustle.
Stacie Monroe - played by Jaime Murray
Stacie uses her sex appeal to manipulate potential marks, and in smaller short cons to raise funds for the team's activities; she is also the team's banker and looks after their floating account in readiness for future cons. She is portrayed as extremely intelligent and an accomplished grifter, described in the first episode of series one as being a grafter that may even be in the same league as Stone.. A previous romantic connection with Stone is occasionally explored; her ex-husband, a fellow short-con artist ran off with all their collective savings five years ago. She is close to Mickey and is always there for him. She also takes Danny under her wing when things get a little tough for him emotionally.
Ash Morgan - played by Robert Glenister
Ash 'Three Socks Morgan' is the team's 'fixer', responsible for setting up the locations, other grifters and items needed to convince the mark of the con's legitimacy. Morgan is portrayed as an exceptional all-round grifter who can turn his hand to any job. He is a master of disguises and is seen at various points impersonating policeman, lift engineers, drivers, shop staff and even an American Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The first episode of series one introduces Morgan working 'The Flop': deliberately stepping in front of a moving car and passing off an old skull fracture obtained in a bar brawl as a fresh injury, in order to make an insurance claim. He is the only character to have appeared in every episode of all eight seasons of the show. Glenister also has that knack of playing to the audience superbly well, which is perfect for Hustle. Not to be confused with his brother who played in 'Ashes to Ashes' as they look alike.
Albert Stroller - played by Robert Vaughn
Albert is the team's 'roper', responsible for identifying and then ensnaring potential marks. He has a way about him that lures people into his trust. A legendary, but semi-retired, 'old-school' grifter, Stroller is portrayed as a mentor and grandfather-figure to the group, of whom they are extremely protective. He gets badly beaten in one episode of this first season and the group play out an elaborate con just to seek revenge for Albert. The legend himself Robert Vaughn plays the part of Albert superbly well and he is a likeable character.
Eddie - played by Rob Jarvis
The owner and proprietor of Eddie's bar where the group often plan cons and hang around during down-time. Fully aware of the group and their dealings, he goes about running the bar like he is none the wiser. The petty grifts played on him by the crew whenever they want to get out of paying their bar tab, make a point to someone, or are just plain bored, are a recurring theme through the series, and often serve as a Chekhov's gun for a trick which will be important later in the episode. Some of the cons pulled when they are receiving change for drinks are hilarious and really make you think 'Hold on a minute' and show you how easily it is done.
Season One Episode Guide
Episode One - The Con Is On
Mickey "Bricks" Stone has just been released from prison, having served a sentence for attacking his soon to be ex-wife's boyfriend. An expert at the long con, he assembles his old team of fellow hustlers to pull off one last con before he retires for good. His team is diverse, ranging from old hand and mentor, Albert Stroller (the Roper), to the alluring Stacie Monroe (the Banker and Lure), and the jack-of-all-trades Ashley "3 Socks" Morgan (the Fixer). Their mark is a greedy and obnoxious businessman. Mickey is approached by a small time short con player named Danny Blue, who wants to become a part of the gang but he turns him down. The con is going to plan when Danny decides to enter the proceedings off his own bat to try and prove his worth, but in doing so, he could also jeopardize the score for the others. Unbeknown to the crew, two police detectives have them under surveillance, eager to imprison Mickey before he retires. When they target Danny as the weak link in the scam, he finds himself put in a difficult position. Does he choose his own freedom, thus getting Mickey caught or does he sacrifice himself for the good of the group he is not yet part of? This first episode sets the mould for the rest of the series and the freeze frame shots and playfulness of the character to audience relationship is superb.
Episode Two -Faking It
Albert is viciously beaten by a local gangster after he is caught cheating at cards. Frank Gorlay, a crooked casino owner who was responsible for putting Albert in hospital is a hardened criminal who many live in fear of. However, Danny (seeing this as his opportunity to show what he can do) helps them to discover Gorlay's weakness, which is a passion for movies, and the gang subsequently attempt to con him into investing in a film (through the Angel scam) with Danny playing the inside as a film producer, Stacie as a cast member of the new film, and Mickey and Ash as the investors. The gang are set to pull one over on this violent man but have they underestimated just how violent he can be and will the consequences be more than any of them can bear?
Episode Three - Picture perfect
Albert and Ash inadvertently ripped off an honest but desperate businessman for his last savings whilst Mickey was in prison, which goes against the first rule of the con; you can't cheat an honest man. Mickey is starting to believe that the gang has fell prey to a jinx. The gang create a "fake" new painting by the artist Piet Mondrian, making out that he had created the style of cubism before Pablo Picasso did. Then they try to sell it to a ruthless art collector and gallery owner, Meredith Gates, a woman with a passion for Mondrian's work. She is also passionate about getting the best deal herself no matter who she treads on to get it. Danny ropes her into the con as a fellow collector looking to buy it. However, hurdles lie ahead for the team in the form of a brilliant, but completely untrustworthy artist who likes to set mentally cruel puzzles and games, and an art journalist who Mickey starts to have doubts about as the con progresses. The hoped outcome of this con is that they can pay the honest man back.
Episode Four - Cops and Robbers
Mickey is blackmailed by a former cop-turned-bank security manager, Victor Maher, who threatens to send Danny to prison if Mickey doesn't help him catch a bank robber. Victor Maher turns out to be infamous when it comes to out-doing grifters, including Albert in the past. Maher keeps a special dossier on all the grifters he has caught. He crosses them off once he has bettered them. Mickey is in the book and he is yet to be crossed out. The robber has targeted branches of the bank that Maher works for all across the country, and is expected to hit the London branch. Albert warns Micky not to comply with the ex-cop, as he fears Mickey is falling into a trap, but when Mickey discovers that the bank robber lost his father, a diamond cutter, to the bank's crooked ways thanks to a major debt they had, the matter becomes complicated. The robber had been seeking back every penny stolen from him and soon the return of a valuable family heirloom they took and kept for themselves to write off the debt. Mickey decides to help, partly due to avenge the robbers father but partly because he wants to be the first grafter to beat Maher at his own game. This is my favourite episode of series one. There are plenty of twists and turns and some good laughs and the actors skills are used to perfection.
Episode Five - A Touch of Class
A rich and recently scorned divorced woman is the target of the next con. The woman was a high profile press target after she allegedly killed her husband's dog and he locked in a lift when he knew she was claustrophobic. The team decide to do the Congreve con (defrauding a vengeful woman). Everything is going according to plan until Mickey's feelings for the woman start to get into the way, and he decides not to continue the con, even revealing who he is to her. But when the mark offers him money to set up her former husband Mickey and the group see it as an opportunity to set things right after they hear what a terrible man he is. There is a great twist to this one and the group may have met their match.
Episode Six - The Last gamble
The stress of grifting has reached a high point for the team, so Mickey decides they should do one more con before going on a break. The crew picks a greedy rich man as their next mark; a recently resigned CEO of a major utility company from where, after performing some seriously bad mismanagement, he left with a golden handshake of £500,000 (much to the annoyance of the workers). For the team, they perform a con that uses his two secret weaknesses - prostitutes and gambling on horses - "the Wire". But unbeknown to the crew, a previous mark who seeks payback for them falsely selling him the London Eye, is on their tail, and is soon eager to steal what they make out of this score. Reminiscent of 'The Sting' and a great way to end series one.
I loved Hustle from the moment it came out as it is right up my street. I like a show that is innovative but does not try to be too clever. Some of the episodes really make you think and it is really good fun to try and guess where each one is going and where it is going to end up.
The characters are all superbly crafted and the actors who play them are all brilliant. I watched the first three seasons and then moved countries. With all the moving and all that that entails I lost track of Hustle for a while. I haven't seen seasons seven and eight yet and can't wait. I have just re-watched series one and even though this is my third time I still find it scintillating and clever. It is hard to believe that series one is already nine years old, but the factor here is that it doesn't look dated one bit.
Some of the cons they pull are ingenious and it is a little like one of my all-time favourite shows 'Dexter', in that it has you rooting for the bad guys even though they are in some way good because they only hurt bad people. It is a good way of sucking an audience in and in Hustle, like Dexter, it works.
IT will be interesting to see how Tony Jordan approaches the movie. Will he make it a one-off or will he steep it in nostalgia for the sake of the hard-core fans of the TV series? Many of the writers including Tony Jordan, Fintan Ryan, Chris Lang, Ashley Pharoah, David Cummings and Matthew Graham deserve a big mention in regards to some polished scripts.
In interview Adrian Lester has said that they would film two episodes simultaneously and with scenes that were out of sequence, so you had to be on your toes to remember at which part of a story your character was. That must have been an absolute nightmare and is again testament to just how brilliant the actors on the show are.
The cast has changed about a bit since season one but that is for reviews of other seasons so I won't cover it here.
The DVD was released on the eighteenth of April 2005 and contains some great extras including behind the scenes and cast interviews. The American DVD box set was released first in a cut version. The BBC re-released it in its full form at a later date.
There is a spin-off real-life show based on Hustle, called 'The Real Hustle', where two guys and a girl show viewing members of the public how to spot con men and avoid there tricks. They do the show really well and always give the victims their money back and explain what has happened.
I give Hustle five out of five stars because you can't give a six.
When I am sitting in my wicker rocking chair in the balcony sun in my nighties, reading the latest serial killer novel and I look back at my favourite all-time TV shows, Hustle will be right up there in the top ten and possibly in the top three. Hustle is a great TV show that I love. I could have wrote a lot more about it, so for those of you who think this review is too long all I can say is that your feared whinging has conned me out of writing a longer piece. In the words of the gang I shall leave you with this.
'You find someone who wants something for nothing and you give them nothing for something'
C'est la vie
Hustle is a TV series by the BBC that transports you to the world of grifters. However, you certainly won't feel conned buying the DVDs as they are well worth the money.
Hustle is about a group of con artists (or grifters). However, there's more to their cons then just taking money from the first person they meet. Their cons are carefully planned and each person in the group has their own part to play.
They find a mark (target), research the best way to get to him and then carry out the long con. The marks aren't just random people though, they are all greedy people and often really mean or constantly breaking the law. As the grifters say, you can never cheat an honest man.
There are 6 episodes in a season. In my opinion there should be more, but I guess you can't really complain. There may only be 6, but they are fantastic.
Each episode goes through stages. Something happens, they find a mark, they plan, they pull off the con (often with various problems arising in between) and then they conclude everything (usually at Eddie's bar).
They go through a number of different cons throughout the season. They are all long cons with many twists that keep you glued to the TV as you wonder how they'll ever pull it off. What's great is that it doesn't always go their way and they have to try and get out of some difficult and, at times, dangerous situations.
The first episode introduces you to the world of the con artists and shows the group getting together after being apart for a while. They start a con only to be interrupted by a short con artist named Danny Blue. Blue is determined to get into the gang and prove himself, but the group leader, Mickey Stone, isn't about to let him in easily.
The next five episodes show just how great these con artists are as they target other marks and aim to get them to give up their money. I would go into more detail on the storylines, but it would ruin it.
Hustle doesn't really have any special effects. The way they show the cons is all very realistic with slight of hands and so on. However, sometimes they will replay clips and show it in slow motion so you can see how it's done, which is shown in the end of episodes when they have a sort of conclusion about all that happened.
Something that is interesting though is the time freeze scenes that they managed to work into the episodes. These work extremely well. During this time everyone freezes apart from the con artists. They then speak directly to the camera and tell you what's going on and sometimes explain certain con terms. This gives the viewer more of an insight and understanding into what's going on without ruining the story.
There are 5 main characters;
Mickey Stone played by Adrian Lester. Mickey is the leader of the group. He's smart and likes everything to be perfect.
Stacie Monroe played by Jaime Murray. Stacie is the only woman and, while she may use this to her advantage at times, she is a strong woman who manages to stay calm in any situation.
Ash "three socks" Morgan played by Robert Glenister. Ash is the fixer. If there's anything that needs sorting (e.g. rooms, websites, and alarm systems) then Ash is there to do it. He knows a lot about electronics and he also knows a lot of useful people.
Albert Stroller played by Robert Vaughn. Albert is the oldest in the group, but don't let his age fool you. He's the one that ropes in the marks and gets them interested what con the others have set up.
Danny Blue played by Marc Warren. Danny is a cheeky short con player who wants to make it big. He likes Mickey, but always believes he should be given a shot at being leader.
I hadn't seen any of these actors in anything previous to this so I can't compare, but they are great actors and play the characters really well.
Of course, you can't forget Eddie played by Rob Jarvis. He owns a bar that the group go to. He says he meets other con artists and has other customers, but it's rare to actually see anyone else in the bar. You can't help, but feel sorry for Eddie. He constantly gets conned, has very few customers and never really gets what's going on, although he is always there when the con artists need him and is considered a friend. Eddie is a great character and really adds to the show. It just wouldn't be the same without him!
As the episodes go on you learn more about the past of each person in the group and find out why it is that each of them became con artists. Despite the rule of never have anything you can't walk away from, the group are clearly more like a family and when it comes down to it that is almost the most important thing. No con is ever just about the money and you can tell that each character agrees with this.
Hustle has an interesting soundtrack which adds to the episodes, although you may not pay much attention to the instrumental pieces of music while watching it. If you think about it you realise that they use a lot of the same music for certain scenes such as when they walk along or begin getting everything together for the cons. You may be thinking the music must get boring as it seems overused but that's not the case at all. When you hear it you know straight away what it's to. It's not music that everyone would want to listen to all the time, but it fits the show perfectly.
The DVD does include assembling the team. The official Hustle website (on the BBC) also has some extras.
Hustle is a unique show and one worth watching. Each episode you try and work out how it will all end or what they're planning, but there's usually always at least on key detail that you will have missed. Hustle Season 1 is the first DVD and the BBC has since gone on to produce more. 7 seasons to be exact. Once you've watched the first you'll want to watch the rest.
The con is on!
I left UK in 2004 and missed out on this show - Hustle, so I've just been starting to catch up with the DVD versions and am quite enjoying it. I like watching caper films and the outcome of this is often similar. A group of long-con artists are out to make money by scamming a greedy person who is often ripping someone else off somewhere along the lines. The storylines are generally very good but there are usually quite large holes in the plot and the show seems to wash over this with it's snazzy Spooks like filming.
Personally I prefer the more composed members of the team - the seductive "bit of posh" Stacey , the old hand Albert and seemingly solid Ash. Danny's got glimpses of charm and his cockyness is quite entertaining at time but he seems a bit of a soft touch and spends a lot of the time following Stacie like a puppy dog. For such a prolific grifter "Micky Bricks" seems a bit of a ponse,
he's always worrying about one thing or another and he behaves like he'd be knocked over by a paper bag so it's a bit unrealistic when he ensures all the negative outcomes are covered with clever plans. Another strange part of the storyline is they consistently claim not to be thieves and simply relieving the rich and greedy of their often corrupt money but can be seen ripping off a genuine person in just about every episode such as spending dodgy notes in the local pub, ripping off a barman with an old film trick, stealing an hours worth of money from various people at a bank machine. I think the show should decide on who it's ripping off.
I'd prefer the show if they concentrated on the scams rather than had these dull side stories such as Micky's divorce and the love interests of Stacey. Saying that, I've enjoyed watching the outcomes of the episodes and will probably be giving the 2nd series a chance.
You can't cheat an honest man, it's impossible! You have to find someone who wants something for nothing and give them nothing for something. This slick, sexy and stylish show from the BBC company Kudos deals with a group of con artists, pulling a series of long cons, cheating the rich and greedy out of their money in elaborate and exceedingly clever cons.
Adrian Lester is Mickey 'Bricks' Stone, the top man in the London grifting circuit, never been caught and just out of a stretch in prison, on a different charge. He wants to assemble a group to carry out long cons. Danny Blue, excellently played by Marc Warren, is a natural but short-con man who wants to join the gang and learn. And so he joins Mickey's group of grifters along with Mickey's mentor Albert Stroller, Ash 'Three Socks' Morgan and Stacie Munroe.
This series is so much fun, it is fast paced and not too difficult to follow if you are paying attention. The music is quite jazzy and the look of the show is very cool, classy and modern. The actors all work so well, helped of course by the excellent scripts, the chemistry between them makes the show really gel together.
Well worth a watch.
A man who has just come out of prison after serving a sentence for GBH, assembles a team of people to plan and carry out up-market fraud. Wealthy and greedy business people anxious to make more money are the 'victims'.