2.12.2011

Reason #245 Why The Brits Do It Better.

THE TAKE (2009)
Image from guardian.co.uk
So I'm cheating a little here. The Take (2009) isn't so much a movie as it is a four part miniseries which featured on the UK's Sky1. It's got the gangster intricacies of The Godfather (1972), but with a bonus of intense family sexual drama and Tom Hardy from Inception (2010). It runs a little something like this: Freddie (Tom Hardy) has just gotten out of prison and he's ready to get back into illegal action. Except this time, he's taking his unwitting cousin, the smart but too-loyal-for-his-own-good Jimmy (Shaun Evans), down with him.

Freddie is one hell of a character. He really is. First of all, he enters back into the real world after spending four years behind bars, and he doesn't play it safe. He doesn't settle in the bushes to take scope of how things have changed. Instead, he rips a hole into the neat, organized life of crime. Settling old vendettas, clashing against opposing mob factions, and killing his way to the top. And leaving Jimmy to sweep up the pieces. Where Freddie is the impulsive shoot-first-ask-question-never type, Jimmy is the brains of the business. He slowly moves up in rank and often works as a buffer between Freddie and their locked up boss, Ozzy (played by the ever talented Brian Cox). Which comes in handy when Freddie, you know. Kills a handful of "protected" people without a blink of his eyes.

Yes, it's all guns, drugs, and unfortunately sex for Freddie, which puts his wife, Jackie (Kierston Wareing from Fish Tank) through multiple jealous and paranoid fits of rage, cooled only by the liquid touch of the bottle to her lips. Jackie, who is just as volatile as her husband, somehow pulls herself together enough to take care of the four children Freddie barely brings himself to see (which gives their youngest son daddy issues with dire consequences). Lucky for Jackie, she has Maggie (Charlotte Riley), to look after her. Maggie, Jackie's little sister, Jimmy's fiancee, and the victim of Freddie's unwanted aggressive advances. It's an incestuous little circle they have, to say the least. Maggie proves to be the unspoken anchor of the family, taking care of her sister and giving Jimmy the confidence to pursue his own "career choices" (even if she doesn't quite agree with them...namely, the whole Freddie bit.)
Threatening promotional poster of awesome.
The performances are phenomenal. Tom Hardy, in short, is off the hook. You thought he was good in Inception (2010)? Oh no. Oho no. He's fantastic in this role. Playful enough that we want to like him, but with an uncontrolled psychopathic edge that leaves us wanting to run very quickly in the opposite direction. He reflects every one of this man's thousand different sides--sadistic, vulnerable, lonely, rebellious, humorous, protective, psycho-crazy. You name it, he's got it. Shaun Evans also pulls of an amazing performance, but can't help but be constantly muted in Tom Hardy's shadow. Which is the point of his character, so he pulls it off well. When Hardy is not on the screen, however, the girls steal the show. Charlotte Riley (who, funny enough, is currently engaged to Tom Hardy) is absolutely fantastic. I'm not sure where she's been all my life. But she nails some of the most utterly painful scenes in the movie and sinks them in to the hilt. Lastly, a mention to Brian Cox, who does the cold and calculated thing like a boss, and Kierston Wareing, who is still doing a good job convincing me she'd be a shit mother, yet somehow comes across as a very strong and sympathetic character by the end.

The reason I claim the Brits do it better is this: it has all the makings of something we've seen before. Gangsters. Estranged loyalties. Twisted "family" dynamics. The old killers slowly dying while the new ones crawl in with the taste of blood. However, this one story is simply crafted so bloody well (as they say). The story is intricate and rich with strain. We feel for every single one of these characters; no one is a saint, and no one is a sinner. Where at one point we'll love a certain character, in the next ten minutes we might find a reason to hate that character. They all do a complete 360, which is what I find most compelling about the story. But don't for a second mistake this for a slow-paced family drama. This is the brilliant part of it. The miniseries moves so damn fast, keeping the viewer on the edge, that once you're hooked in it's really hard to stop. It is, in the most basic sense, a gangster movie, and never forgets that. Yet the guns and drugs are somehow interwoven seamlessly with the character drama, which is what makes this show absolutely brilliant.

If you love gangsters, violence, and Tom Hardy, this is one you'll enjoy. However, if you love gangsters, violence, Tom Hardy, and extraordinarily complex characters, this is a must see. I will give one warning though, and that is that this series is not for the squeamish. The violence is both physical and sexual, and some of the deaths are...well. Just plain twisted. But they carry so much emotional weight, I promise it's worth it. Plus, this series pulls of an ending I've never seen any other gangster film even try to attempt. I'm just saying. Do we have any feminists in the house?

8 comments:

  1. Best...date night...ever.

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  2. Word to that. Lots of word to that. In fact, so much word to that, it could fill up a dictionary.

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  3. Tom Hardy, guns, violence, sex...and all from a novel by one fan-fucking-tastic FEMALE crime writer. Oh yeah! I've got to check this out as soon as I can.

    This is a brilliant review. "But she nails some of the most utterly painful scenes in the movie and sinks them in to the hilt." Yep, total brilliance.

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  4. My point exactly. It's genius and I recommend it immediately. That's really all I can say about this one.

    And thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

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  5. Got to watch this show! Tom Hardy is always good. Loved him in Bronson. Also his upcoming movie, Warrior looks intense.

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  6. Tom Hardy really is brilliant! He's a great actor, no bones about it, and he definitely steals the show in this one. It's a great role for him because the character is so flashy and eccentric yet...also subtle as the show progresses. All in all, a must-see if you're a Hardy fan.

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