You have to go into this series prepared. It’s like EastEnders on acid, or perhaps The Godfather remade in East London via an Usher music video. The colours, the violence, the filming style – it’s all cranked up to bursting point.
As the title suggests, this four-part drama is an adaptation of Martina Cole’s novel of the same name. Sky have actually done something rather brilliant with the source material. It’s not uncommon to hear a bit of literary snobbery when people talk about Martina, who was until recently a resident of my hometown Essex. It’s true her books are not James Joyce, but they are incredibly popular. They are great page-turners, and Sky have very smartly pumped money and passion into bring her work to life on TV.
The cast is terrific. Tom Hardy, currently on a high after Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the upcoming Batman epic The Dark Knight Rises, plays Freddie Jackson, an East End gangster. He and his brother (Sean Evans) are both caught up in drugs and money and gruelling violence. The Take isn’t really a gangster thriller, however. It’s a family drama, and as the series continues we see how Freddie’s actions tear apart his loved ones.
Of the supporting players, Charlotte Riley and Kierston Wareing excel in their roles of the respective wives of the two central thugs. Wareing, who was so affecting in Andrea Arnold’s film Fish Tank, is becoming one of Britain’s most head-turning young female actors, and her performance here is bruisingly memorable.
The ending to the series won’t satisfy everyone but, as the slogan on Martina Cole’s books says, she is the author who ‘tells it like it is’. Life doesn’t often offer a nice, neatly packaged ending. Things are frequently left untidy or unfinished, and the closing shots of The Take remind us that although our society may fight against destructive and dangerous criminals, they will always walk among us.
The Take (2009), directed by David Drury, is available on Blu-ray disc and DVD from ITV Studios Home Entertainment, Certificate 18. Viewers may wish to seek more information on this programme at www.bbfc.co.uk.