“The Take” based on the novel by Martina Cole and first primiering on England’s Sky One network, in 2009, follows the life of gangster, Frankie Jackson as he rises from low life thug to Golden Boy drug dealer in 1980’s London. Those of us who lived through the eighties can attest to the authenticity of the hair, clothes and make up (it’ll take you back), and those of us who aren’t English gangsters can also attest to the fact that in an era of flash, mass consumption, drugs and more drugs, no one does it better than a gangster. The refreshing thing about this story is that none of it ever looks like it’s worth having.
Frankie and his young cousin Jimmy set out to conquer the world of organized crime. After his stint in prison, Frankie gets the nod from Mob Boss Ozzy to set up a job and start over in the “family” with a more lucrative future. He sees Jimmy and himself as an unstoppable team, something special. But what he comes to discover is that his once wide eyed, admiring, little cousin is the brains of the pair, and much better suited to the business side of “the family business”.
It’s hard to make friends and keep them when you’re a psychopath. Frankie really has only one true friend and that’s his cousin. From the beginning, we can see Frankie’s penchant to take what he wants, with little if any consideration for his wife, his children or the orders of his boss. The hierarchy in the mob means nothing to Frankie and his way of showing it is to kill anyone he wants to, and let Jimmy clean up the mess. Frankie’s tendency towards chaos forces their boss, Ozzy to choose between them, and he chooses well. Jimmy gets handed the keys to the Ecstasy business, and Frankie gets handed the grunt work. Of course, the split in fortunes means a split with the cousins and jealousy, envy and intrigue follow. This is where we see Frankie’s broken, ruthless side rear it’s ugly head, and ultimately ruin him.
Tom Hardy gives one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen in this British mini-series. Award winning and Oscar nominated Hardy displays the kind of nuanced, brilliant performance that earns him the reputation he so much deserves – that of a great artist. Shuan Evans as Frankie’s cousin, Jimmy deserves credit for holding his own with Hardy, and delivering a simmering performance as the well intentioned partner in crime.
The rest of the cast give equally brilliant performances, authentic and often riveting. Frankie’s wife, played by Kierston Wareing could not be a better match for the talents of Hardy. Her character teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown for most of the series, and while we think she should know better, we’re right there with her to ride the stormy marriage to its end.
Unquestionably worth the watch, “The Take” might be better named “The Taker” for its unflinching portrayal of the damage one person can do to so many lives – a study of psychopathic narcissism at its core. Watch it and be glued to your chair. You won’t be able to turn away from this incredibly well crafted car wreck.