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April 2014

Leverage season 5

cast: Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf, and Aldis Hodge

creators: Chris Downey and John Rogers

615 minutes (12) 2012
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Icon DVD Region 2

RATING: 8/10
review by Christopher Geary

Leverage - season five

Smarter than The A-Team, slicker than Mission: Impossible, and more fun than Burn Notice, this excellent action TV series combines drama, comedy, thrills, and character pathos, in a consistently witty, entertaining blend of heroic adventure, with extralegal schemes against criminals that got away with it. Leverage bridges the grey areas of a cross-genre gap between altruistic vigilante shows (such as The Equalizer) and plain-clothes super-heroics with comicbook style.

The team of con-artists ("sometimes bad guys make the best good guys") consists of a failed actress turned grifter named Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman, Silent Trigger), mercenary turned bodyguard Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane, Universal Squadrons), a crazy blonde cat-burglar known only as Parker (Beth Riesgraf), and computer hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), and they are led into regular trouble by Nathan 'Nate' Ford (Timothy Hutton, The Dark Half, Sidney Lumet's Q&A), a brilliant investigator of insurance fraud who now uses his brains to help people instead of big business.

Their adversaries are usually corporate or white-collar crooks, and (much like The A-Team and the ex-spy of Burn Notice) they usually take on cases by some inexplicable process of referral on the grapevine. This final season of 15 episodes is set and filmed in Portland, Oregon.

Cary Elwes appears in the first episode as a corrupt shipping magnate who is tricked into believing he could steal Howard Hughes' prototype aircraft the Spruce Goose. The Blue Line Job guest stars Treat Williams in a plot centred on an ice-hockey team. Jonathan Frakes directs The First Contact Job, in which Nate's team aim to convince a scientist he's received a message from aliens.

There are scams about a cooking school, and exploited showbiz cheerleaders, before a flashback episode that guest stars Fred Ward and Ronny Cox in the 'true story' of an unsolved FBI case about infamous robber and hi-jacker D.B. Cooper. The main cast also portray characters in this episode's retro scenes of a reconstruction of the daring crime. Dean Devlin directs guest stars Adam Baldwin and Monte Markham in action-packed episode The Rundown Job, which pits our heroes against bio-war terrorists in Washington D.C.

An irregular but recurring character in the show, insurance investigator Jim Sterling (Mark Sheppard, Supernatural), returns for The Frame-Up Job, in which Sophie is arrested for a crime she did not commit. The Low Low Price Job sees Nate and the gang helping family businesses threatened by crooked tactics of their competitors. Scenarios involving wine-makers and toymakers are the details in further episodes, before The Long Goodbye Job has Catherine Dent guest starring as an Interpol agent who interrogates Nate, in custody, following the apparent deaths of his team during their most dangerous operation.

In the wake of the Ocean's Eleven remake, and British TV series Hustle (which is a quite inferior forerunner in the subgenre that Leverage explores), this American series managed to perfect an appealing formula of ex-crooks as reformed characters who change their lives for the better, and for the benefit of people in trouble. The team of do-gooders are all likeable misfits, and their obvious humanity stands in marked contrast to the parasitic billionaires and corrupt organisations that become suitable targets for poetic justice. Leverage is TV action with vigilante heroes at its very best!

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