They accused Judge Alice Nelson of being on "the take," but thankfully she had a better attorney than Lance Armstrong.
Friendship, love, revenge and murder. Lots of murder.
When you look at Tom Hardy, it's hard to imagine that he's the imposing character with the twisted gas mask in The Dark Knight Rises. But it's not hard to see that this dude can act. As the unstable loser Freddie in the British mini-series The Take, he is just as convincing portraying a bullying thug, as he is the sadistic Bane. Hardy might have the most recognizable name on the marquee, but he is joined by a cast of first rate actors in a story that's so much more than your average crime drama.
Facts of the Case
After four years in the hoosegow, Freddie (Tom Hardy, Inception) finally earns his freedom. While inside, he met local drug lord Ozzy (Brian Cox, The Bourne Identity), who is everything Freddie wants to be. Ozzy takes Freddie under his wing, intending to mentor him to lead the organization, while Ozzy serves his time. But Freddie immediately blows it, right after his release, when he takes revenge on one of Ozzy's guys, nearly killing him. Now Ozzy must do away with the untrustworthy Freddie, giving the order to take him out after he helps Ozzy's crew on a bank job. Sensing he is in some sort of danger, Freddie asks his cousin Jimmy (Shaun Evans Being Julia) to go along and watch his back. The robbery is almost botched, until Jimmy shows some leadership skills that get the attention of Ozzy, who begins mentoring him instead of Freddie. This causes a rift to form between the once very close cousins, and sets into motion a chain of tragic events.
The Take is a four-part mini-series that originally aired on Britain's Sky 1 television in June 2009. Based on the novel by Martina Cole, the series focuses on the lives of two cousins, Jimmy and Freddie, between the years 1984 and 1994.
Freddie and Jimmy grew up together in a poor neighborhood where their only role models were drug dealers and mob guys. Freddie was always the alpha male to his younger cousin, and is the person responsible for introducing Jimmy to the world of organized crime (how lovely). When we first meet Jimmy, he has a lot of admiration for his cousin, but as the series progresses, Shaun Evans does a fantastic job of transforming the submissive Jimmy into a much more hardened character, who knows that Freddie is a detriment to his livelihood, and to the safety of himself and his family. Freddie is an unpredictable figure with a hair trigger temper, on an unavoidable path to complete and utter self-destruction. Hardy doesn't play him one dimensionally, but shows him as a complicated man with big dreams that he's unable to attain due to his own shortcomings. The problem is Freddie never realizes that the choices he makes are the reason his life is such an abject failure.
As Jimmy's star rises and Freddie's falls, the person who suffers the most in Freddie's life is his alcoholic coke-sniffing wife Jackie (Kierston Wareing). These losers of life's lottery have an almost Sid and Nancy-type relationship that is detrimental not only to them, but their children as well. Their actions are the driving force behind all the heartbreak that comes to anyone in the nearest vicinity of their pathetic lives. As Jackie continues to love Freddie, she endures his philandering ways and ignores it when the he grabs her sister Maggie (Charlotte Riley, Hardy's real life fiancé) in a most inappropriate manner.
The sister's relationship mirrors that of Freddie and Jimmy, with Jackie being the alpha and Maggie living in her shadow. But now that Maggie is Jimmy's girl and the two seem to have it all—big house, fine clothes, Ozzy's blessing—it's Jackie who is living in her baby sister's wake. The wedge between the couples grow, as Freddie and Jackie's lives stagnante; trapped in the same tenement apartment they lived in before Freddie went to prison. What Jackie and Freddie don't realize is that Jimmy and Maggie's life is just as broken, only in very different ways.
The Take is a family saga disguised as a crime drama, about the family we choose versus the family we are born into, and the fallout that arises in both when we let problems fester and grow until nothing good can come of them. The onscreen chemistry between the main actors is what makes this story work. But for as great as Tom Hardy is, the standout performance goes to Shaun Evans. The transformation he makes from a meager drug runner to the head of Ozzy's organization is phenomenal. Evans manages to completely change his demeanor in a way that is believable, but also dramatic. Jimmy's stride is more certain, his voice more confident, and his natural intelligence shining through, making him even more dangerous than his volatile though not too swift cousin Freddie. Evans is superb and hopefully we will see more from him in the States in the not too distant future. This fine ensemble is rounded out by veterans Brian Cox (X2: X-Men United) as Ozzy, and Sara Stewart (Batman Begins) as his sister Patricia. Their performances are crucial to what takes place in the lives of Freddie, Jimmy, Jackie, and Maggie, and the two do not disappoint.
Director David Drury (Helen Mirren's Prime Suspect) and writer Neil Biswas (Skins), takes Martina Cole's novel and brings it to life. These characters jump out, dragging us along with their miserable lives, whether we want to come or not. But we do want to tag along, if for no other reason than to find out what happens to this group of dysfunctional people who make one terrible choice after another.
Presented in standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the visuals seem a bit grainy, but it gives the show an air of grittiness it needs to feel authentic. The worst thing about the Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix is getting your ears accustomed to the thick characters' dialect. Hardy is especially difficult to understand, because Freddie is always drunk or high, so his speech is often slurred. This suits the character, but I often dropped a few words here and there. The next time I have the pleasure of reviewing one of these British imports, I'll brush up on the vernacular first. Extras include interviews with author Martina Cole, actors Shaun Evans and Brian Cox, and writer Neil Biswas.
The Take is a gritty character-driven adventure that can often be emotionally difficult to watch. It shows what can happen when you live life without boundaries or rules, and what results when you justify whatever you do through misplaced family loyalty; whether that family is blood or criminal in nature.
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