The Take

"The Take" offers the simple pleasure of Tom Hardy at his brutish, glowering best.

Freddie Jackson - Tom Hardy
Jimmy - Shaun Evans
Maggie - Charlotte Riley
Jackie - Kierston Wareing
Ozzy - Brian Cox

A small-scale 2009 British crime drama picked up as original programming for Encore, “The Take” offers the simple pleasure of Tom Hardy at his brutish, glowering best. Released from prison in the opening moments, his thuggish Freddie Jackson is so feral and simian as to recall Paul Muni in the original “Scarface,” setting up an awkward and eventually adversarial relationship with his more cerebral cousin, also well played by Shaun Evans. “The Take” is mob light, perhaps, but still unfolds in a manner that deftly pulls you through each of its four hourlong chapters.

Hardy’s Freddie is hardly a deep thinker. Instead, he’s prone to settling disputes with a broken bottle and asking questions later.

Cousin Jimmy (Evans) — who becomes his unlikely sidekick — hardly seems to be his match. Not only does he rely on his wits, but he even has a lovely girlfriend, Maggie (Charlotte Riley), who humanizes him — and doesn’t trust Freddie. Yet with mob boss Ozzy (the always-splendid Brian Cox) behind bars, the two are left to manage his dirty dealings, despite the growing tension between them. And without giving too much away, alliances shift in unpredictable ways over a period covering 10 years.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, the story, by Neil Biswas (adapted from Martina Cole’s novel) and directed by David Drury incorporates enough violence and tragedy to sustain a strong sense of menace — at least, until the final hour, where the payoff doesn’t quite equal the buildup.

Most of the drama naturally stems from the mercurial Freddie, a character Hardy — whose resume includes a terrific “Wuthering Heights” remake, before entering director Christopher Nolan’s orbit via “Inception” and the upcoming Batman sequel — turns into a seething, volatile presence. He’s the kind of functioning psychopath who can go off at a moment’s notice, and makes what otherwise could be a rather tired crime drama eminently watchable and suspenseful.

Although some of the cultural aspects of Britain in the go-go ’80s might not resonate with a U.S. audience, for Encore, the acquisition nevertheless qualifies as a no-brainer — offering pay-TV grit on the cheap.

In the process, the takeaway from “The Take” again proves an old showbiz saw: Cast the right actor as a mobster, and being bad can be pretty damn good.

Popular on Variety

The Take

Encore, Fri. Dec. 2, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Ireland by Company Pictures & Warner Sisters for Sky1 and Sky1 HD, and distributed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment. Executive producers, Lavinia Warner, Charles Pattinson, George Faber, Helen Flint, Suzan Harrison, Andrew Lowe, Elaine Pyke, Martina Cole; producer, Willow Grylls; director, David Drury; writer, Neil Biswas; based on the book by Martina Cole.

Crew: Camera, Owen McPolin; production designer, Susie Cullen; editor, Chris Ridsdale; music, Ruth Barrett; casting, Emma Style. 4 HOURS.

Cast: Freddie Jackson - Tom Hardy
Jimmy - Shaun Evans
Maggie - Charlotte Riley
Jackie - Kierston Wareing
Ozzy - Brian Cox

More TV

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]


    TV Review: 'A Little Late with Lilly Singh'

    Lilly Singh is well aware of her unique place in late night. After kicking off her first episode with a rap dedicated to the fact that she is not, unlike every other network late-night host, a straight white man, Singh walks out onto her own stage and addresses it with her audience directly. “I get [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Peter Coyote Riffs on 'Country Music' and How He Admires and Challenges Ken Burns

    Though an instantly recognizable face from films such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “A Walk to Remember” and “Erin Brockovich,” it is Peter Coyote’s voice — a coolly authoritative baritone with a Zen master’s holy roll — that has endeared him to documentary lovers and makers. Alrhough director-writer Alex Gibney used Coyote’s wisened narration for “Enron: [...]


    Emmys 2019: Inside All the Hottest Pre-Parties

    It’s (Emmys) party time! Before the 71st annual Emmys go live on Sunday, stars and execs are keeping busy by party-hopping in the days leading up to the big show. Here, Variety gives you the inside details on who was where and what they were doing. Keep checking back right here throughout the weekend for [...]

  • Atmosphere71st Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations Announcement,

    Emmys: Looking Ahead to 2020, Here Are Some of the Rules That the TV Academy Should Address

    When this year’s Emmy nominations were announced in July, Netflix’s gripping and powerful “When They See Us” earned several well-deserved nods, including limited series, as well as actor (Jharrel Jerome) and directing (Ava DuVernay) for limited series or a movie. It also cleaned up in the limited series supporting actor and actress categories — but [...]

  • Prodigal-Son

    TV Review: 'Prodigal Son'

    Darkness on network TV can feel a bit by-the-book; in order to impress us with how edgy they’re able to be within stricter boundaries than cable and streaming, dramas lard on violence and evil that can feel a bit unmotivated. Which is why “Prodigal Son,” a new Fox drama, is in its first three episodes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content