There might not be a more clichéd genre of film than the caper, although the romantic comedy sure does get close. With that in mind, there probably wouldn’t be a more clichéd genre of television than the caper. With so many examples through the years, the action might seem too predictable and when crosses and double crosses become predictable, then triple crosses and quadruple crosses become the norm.
The one shining light is that since the genre seems so clichéd, the only people who try to make them work extremely hard to be both creative and original. Take Frank Oz’s The Score and David Mamet’s Heist. Both were well written and well done.
For movies, it’s a little easier to condense the action. For TV, prolonging the story and executing a satisfying payoff seems daunting and somewhat tedious — look at what happened to last year’s NBC show Heist, with Dougray Scott. Can a such a show really sustain itself for a full season?
Yes and no.
Anyone who watches British television knows a regular season is usually about three quarters less than that of American television. The episodes usually run longer, but only total six. We Americans are greedy and need more.
However, for Tony Jordan’s Hu$tle, the six episode season works in its favor since the plot lines can be needlessly unelaborated, the action can be brisk yet complete, and the payoff can be timely. But the plot lines don’t carry over from episode to episode per se (a la Lost) and the build-up doesn’t seem to be building anything.
Hu$tle follows the tight-knit con group led by the world renown Michael “Mickey Bricks” Stone (Adrian Lester). His right hand man is technical guru Ashley Morgan (Robert Glenister), his mentor is Albert Stroller (Robert Vaughn), while his go to girl is Stacie Monroe (Jaime Murray). The newcomer is Danny Blue (Marc Warren), often referred to as a young “Mickey.”
Together, the group specializes in the long con, not often done because “no one knows how.” They don’t con honest people because it can’t be done. You can only con someone who wants something for nothing and then give them nothing for something.
Mickey is the top dog when it comes to long cons and the first episode deals with his release from prison (non-con related). He’s out to pull off one last con and he enlists in the old gang to pull it off; but it seems the police are already on his trail.
I could go through the specifics, but with crime movies and shows it’s best not to know much so pre-judgments or thoughts can’t be made and the experience can be delayed of any spoil. However, I’d like to mention the obviousness of certain character choices. The lone attractive female in the group might mean something, or it might not.
I fear I’ve said too much, but anyone who’s ever seen con and crime movies like Ocean’s 11, Heat, and, of course, The Sting can already assume what to expect. And that’s not the same as predicting!
Hu$tle is thorough in its ability to play out on a need to know basis. Only the essential clues and actions are shown and all the needless fat is cut out. The show could be a little more entertaining by showing more of the actual caper and less of the caper’s staging. Granted, this does play itself more as an insider show; the thrill of trying to be a grifter is how exciting (and scary) the actual con plays out.
The character development couldn’t be better, with everyone’s background being established at just the right time. Every member of the crew has morals and their own personalities, which makes them even more interesting.
My only one real quirk about the show is I don’t think it’s funny enough. It’s light-hearted, but there weren’t many times I laughed. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I was just surprised by my lack of amusement. If the show was very serious, I could see why laughter would be avoided. I guess con artists don’t laugh either.
Web clips (Quicktime):
“Can’t Con An Honest Man”
“Danny Joins The Con”
The DVD is already out and the show will soon be in its fourth season. Time to play catch up.