Keep your eyes on Tom Hardy. Before the Brit starred in films like "Inception" or this year's "Warrior," he scorched the small screen as thuggish Freddie Jackson in the 2009 British miniseries "The Take" (8 p.m. Friday, Encore; 3.5 stars).
His unblinking, brutish presence has turned a rather traditional and ultra-violent crime drama into something exceedingly watchable and suspenseful. Encore is presenting the miniseries as an original for the network, premiering each of the four parts at 8 p.m. Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 23.
As the story opens, thuggish Freddie is picked up from prison in the 1980s by his cousin, Jimmy (Shaun Evans, also terrific). Freddie brings Jimmy into the crime business, where they do a little of this and a little of that for mob boss Ozzy (Brian Cox), who is serving a prison sentence himself.
But where Freddie shows absolutely no conscience and never misses the chance to use murder, betrayal or smashing beer bottle into a goodfella’s face, the smarter Jimmy talks thing out, settling disputes in a gentler way. Without spoiling too much, alliances shift in surprising ways over the 10 years covered by the miniseries.
We also meet the sisters Freddie and Jimmy marry. Jackie (Kierston Wareing) is Freddie’s long-suffering pill popper wife, while Jimmy’s gal, Maggie (Charlotte Riley), manages to keep her senses even if she, too, suffers from her man’s chosen profession. Both actresses are exceptional in the roles that you’ve probably seen in any number of mob movies.
Familiar characters like that and a fourth-hour payoff that doesn’t quite match the buildup are the main problems with “The Take,” which is adapted from a popular British novel by Martina Cole.
But Hardy and the supporting cast deliver. I can’t wait to see him bring that same menace to the role of baddie Bane in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” next year.