What do you get when you meld together the con job genre of an Ocean's 11 or The Sting with a high-tech Mission Impossible ensemble team? Mix in some Get Smart campiness and a touch of the do-goodness of Robin Hood and his band of merry men (and women) and you have Leverage.
Leverage is an American television drama series that first premiered on December 7, 2008 on the TNT network. It follows a team of five members led by a former insurance investigator who use their skills to turn around injustices to common people perpetrated by organizations like corporations, government entities, and organized criminal elements.
The organizer of the group is Nathan Ford who is played by Timothy Hutton. Ford had been an insurance fraud investigator who had a seriously ill son. The insurance company he worked for refused experimental treatment and when his son died Ford began drinking. He was eventually fired from his job. By the start of the show, Ford is an alcoholic who has been divorced by his wife and is ready to get back at those who take advantage of others.
Sophie Devereaux, who is played by Gina Bellman, is a grifter and accomplished art thief. She tries to be an actress in real life, but is only able to be convincing when she is pulling a con job. She acts as a buffer between Nate and the team when there are problems and it is evident that she and Ford have had feelings for each other.
Eliot Spencer, as played by Christian Kane, is a highly skilled martial artist and weapons expert, and an expert in retrieval. While he has a distaste for guns, he is proficient in their use and knowledgeable about them – so much so that in one episode, "The Homecoming Job," he is able to identify the type of a gun from the sound it makes. He also has other abilities such as profound culinary skills.
Parker, who has only one name, is played by Beth Riesgraf. She is a thief, cat burglar, and explosives expert. She is a risk-taker who is in it for the thrill. In one episode she explains that she does not like things, she likes the money. In "The Nigerian Job" her abusive father tells her that she has a choice to do what she is told, or to become a better thief. She chooses the latter.
Alec Hardison, played by Aldis Hodge, is a computer hacker and gadget expert. He is a geek, genius, and science fiction fan. He was raised by foster parents who where Jehovah's Witnesses, and from this he has acquired the ability to talk to anyone. He is also exceptionally gifted when hacking into most forms of electronics.
Leverage is very much patterned after shows from the '60s like The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Wild, Wild, West, and Mission Impossible. Like these shows, the team takes on entities that no one else will. Like many of these earlier shows, the titles of each episode are variations on a theme. For Leverage, the theme is that they each begin with "The" and end in the word "Job". Even the theme music has that '60s show sound to it.
In episode one, "The Nigerian Job," the group comes together for just one job, but as they found it to be very profitable to steal from the crooked, and just as satisfying to give back to the victims, they decide to make it more permanent. They become Leverage Consulting & Associates.
Each episode starts with the victim or victims of an injustice. For example, in episode seven, "The Wedding Job," to retrieve the money promised to the family of an innocent man who took the fall for a Mafia boss, the Leverage team poses as the wedding planners for the don’s only daughter on her big day.
In episode nine, "The Snow Job," they take on the case of a National Guardsman whose home was foreclosed by an unscrupulous contractor. In this episode Nate's drinking jeopardizes the team when he begins hitting the bottle again, and then he jeopardizes the job itself by deciding to go for a bigger scam with an even bigger payout.
Prior to this review, I had never seen Leverage. On watching season one, I became an instant fan. The show is very likable with a cast that is a superb mix of characters. If you are looking for something deep, or a revolutionary new show, Leverage is not it. This, instead, is pure entertainment. There are times that it moves quite fast, almost feeling like they are trying to get too much in, but they do tie up all the loose ends, making it feel complete.
The show is produced by Dean Devlin, who created such films as Independence Day, Stargate, and The Patriot. Leverage has that same feel of a high budget film. Leverage is shot using a pair of Red One video cameras in 4096 x 2304 at 24 fps; although resolution is reduced in post-production to 1080p, it still has exceptional picture quality.
Along with the 13 episodes from the first season, there are a number of bonus features including "Leverage: Behind the Scenes," "Anatomy of a Stunt Fight," "The Cameras of Leverage," "Leverage Gets Renewed," and "Beth Riesgraf's Crazy Actress Spoof." There is audio commentary on each episode as well as a number of deleted scenes from some of the shows.
I really enjoyed watching Leverage and it sold me on watching the new season. As each episode moves on you can see the cast getting more and more comfortable and the other elements, like the writing, are getting even more tight. The shows are fast-paced and the dialog is witty. Each episode contains the proper amount of action, humor, and character development.
Sure, there are a lot of two-dimensional supporting characters, like some bumbling FBI agents and thugs that are not too bright, but in my opinion that is what makes the show so charming. It gives Leverage Consulting that almost comic book superhero feel. If you are looking for good entertainment then look no further than Leverage: The Complete First Season.