Tom Hardy exudes dangerous charm in “The Take”

Tom Hardy is making a career for himself playing brutal sociopaths. His penchant for tough-guy roles — like his award-winning portrayal of Britain’s most notorious prisoner, Charles Bronson, in the 2008 biopic Bronson, and his upcoming role as the chemically enhanced villain Bane in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises — has drawn comparisons to a young Marlon Brando.

In the relentlessly dark four-part miniseries The Take, Hardy plays another working-class tough, Freddie Jackson — a wannabe mobster who aims to take over London’s criminal underworld. Freddie makes the right connections and stabs his way up the chain of command with his loyal, but naive, younger cousin Jimmy (Shaun Evans) at his side. However, it isn’t long before Freddie’s self-destructive tendencies push Jimmy into assuming more responsibility within the organization, and force the inevitable showdown of love, loyalty and betrayal.

The Take is essentially The Godfather: Part London, and its anti-hero protagonist, Freddie, is a crazier version of Sonny, if that character had no heart and only temper. The series establishes early the control Freddie lacks and the utter violence he’s capable of. He is a distinctly unlikable character, with credit going to Hardy, who sneers, hunches and explodes with surprising magnetism.

Unfortunately, a talented supporting cast is given little to do besides imitate mobster-movie stereotypes. Freddie’s long-suffering wife (Kierston Wareing) sobs in bed, surrounded by empty bottles of booze and pills. She drinks. She cries. Then she drinks some more. The legendary criminal godfather (an underused Brian Cox), who manipulates the operation from behind bars, clutches his rosary and offers up a prayer before growling orders.

Clearly this is Hardy’s show, and he maneuvers it deftly. Although, with so many outrageously violent performances on his resumé, perhaps the 2011 BAFTA Rising Star Award winner could consider making his next film a romantic comedy. Even Brando lightened things up once in a while.

>> The Take airs four consecutive Fridays, beginning Dec. 2 at 9p ET/PT on Encore.

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