Certainly a very relevant series for the time period, "Leverage" stars Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton as insurance investigator Nate Ford, who exposed scams that managed to save his company millions of dollars. However, despite his years of service to the company, when Nate's 8-year-old child becomes ill, the company refused to pay for treatment.
Years later, Nate is presented with the chance to get even. He is asked by Victor Dubenich (Saul Rubinek) to get together a team of various cons, thieves and computer experts to try and right wrongs that have often been done by government or corporate figures. In one episode, for example, the team targets an investment broker who swindled a charity.
The series often creates fairly elaborate, "Ocean's Eleven"-style (composer Joseph LoDuca's work here even occasionally sounds a little like David Arnold's from the "Ocean" films) situations for the team to get the best of the mark. Joining Nate on the job are Con artist Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), tough guy Elliott (Christian Kane), computer expert Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf). The show's villain is Jim Sterling (Mark Sheppard) - Nate's former co-worker, who tries to stop Nate's operations. Unlike the "Ocean's" films, this team aren't always pals, and there is some underlying tension within the group.
Although the plots don't get quite that detailed, the writers manage both an engaging set of twists and turns, as well as other details (nifty gadgets, etc.) for the characters to use. One refreshing change is that the series immediately opens with the onset of the situation; there's no backstory, no lead-in to the con. Every episode starts off off-and-running, and the pacing remains tight until the end credits. There's not even much to these characters, the series is more concerned with a story, and manages to actually be pretty successful as a story-driven and not character-driven effort. The show's attempts at humor are also quite funny at times, and manage to get laughs without taking the tension of the episode down.
The performances are quite good, as Hutton offers a very enjoyable lead performance, while Kane, Bellman, Hodge, Sheppard (who makes a pretty decent villain) and Riesgraf all offer fun supporting efforts. "Leverage" is a surprising amount of fun - while not without a few stumbles, the pacing is brisk, the writing solid and the show remains tense and entertaining.
• Season 1
1 1-01 07/Dec/08 The Nigerian Job
2 1-02 09/Dec/08 The Homecoming Job
3 1-03 16/Dec/08 The Two-Horse Job
4 1-04 23/Dec/08 The Miracle Job
5 1-05 30/Dec/08 The Bank Shot Job
6 1-06 06/Jan/09 The Stork Job
7 1-07 13/Jan/09 The Wedding Job
8 1-08 20/Jan/09 The Mile High Job
9 1-09 27/Jan/09 The Snow Job
10 1-10 03/Feb/09 The 12-Step Job
11 1-11 10/Feb/09 The Juror #6 Job
12 1-12 17/Feb/09 The First David Job
13 1-13 24/Feb/09 The Second David Job
VIDEO: "Leverage" is presented by Paramount in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is excellent, as sharpness and detail remained above-average throughout much of the proceedings - only a few minor moments of softness were spotted. A couple of traces of edge enhancement were spotted, but the picture otherwise appeared pristine. Colors remained bold and rich throughout, with very nice saturation and no smearing or other faults. Overall, these episodes looked quite fine.
SOUND: The show's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is just fine, with moderate surround use for ambience and reinforcement of the music. Otherwise, the majority of the audio is spread nicely across the front soundstage. LoDuca's jazzy, funky score sounds rich and dynamic, while dialogue remains crisp and well-recorded throughout.
EXTRAS: Commentaries from crew are offered on every episode. The tracks are quite insightful and offer a lot of information on filming, story development, working with the actors and behind-the-scenes stories. "Leverage: Behind-the-Scenes" is a 12-minute documentary that provides an overview of the making of/development of the series. It's a little on the promotional side, but provides some fine interviews. "Anatomy of a Stunt Fight" is a brief, 3-minute look at the rehearsal of a fight sequence. "The Cameras of Leverage" provides a look at the various cameras used in filming, including the famed new Red One Digital Camera. "Leverage Gets Renewed" is a look at the event where producer Dean Devlin gathers the cast (some via online) to get the announcement that the show will be coming back for another round. We also get deleted scenes and a spoof starring actress Beth Riesgraf.
Final Thoughts: "Leverage" is a surprising amount of fun - while not without a few stumbles, the pacing is brisk, the writing solid and the show remains tense and entertaining. The DVD set provides very good audio/video quality and a nice helping of extras. Highly recommended.