Television Review: Leverage, "Pilot - The Nigerian Job"
· Official Leverage Website
· IMDb: Leverage
(L-R): Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Timothy Hutton, Aldis Hodge, Beth Riesgraf
image copyright 2008, Turner Broadcasting System
by R.J. Carter
Published: December 5, 2008
TNT's new series, Leverage, could best be summed up as Ocean's Eleven: The Series -- which could be a good thing if you were someone who liked "Ocean's Eleven." I happened to love it, and so was easily hooked by the concept of white-hat crooks reluctantly putting their skills on the line to balance out the scales of justice.
The pilot episode, "The Nigerian Job," introduces us to our cast of characters, starting with Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton), a former insurance investigator who now spends his days trying to crawl into a bottle. Once upon a time, Ford was a crackshot recovery agent, saving his company millions. But that same company then refused to cover the treatment that could have saved his son's life, citing that it was experimental, and let the boy die -- along with Ford's will to work for them any longer.
When Ford is approached by an aeronautics CEO with a problem, he at once isn't interested. The man complains that a rival company has stolen the plans for a new jet, right before a critical meeting of stockholders. The desperate CEO has already assembled a team of criminal loners to pull the job off, but needs someone with Ford's experience and honesty to watch over them. He offers a healthy amount of cash and, for added incentive, the information that the rival company has insured the plans for a fortune through Ford's old employers.
But getting this crew of ultra-talented misfits to work together is like herding cats. There's Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), a recovery expert in his own right who has an almost Batman-like aversion to guns (and similar skills in disarming the men who use them). Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) is a cutting edge technologist who excels at computer fraud and cybercrimes. And then there's Parker -- played mischievously by Beth Riesgraf, Parker is a little girl in a woman's body, addicted to adrenaline and danger and saddled with a disturbing childhood (shown in flashback).
Begrudgingly, and under Ford's direction, this motley crew pulls the job off without a hitch. Unfortunately, they also learn that they weren't stealing the plans back -- they were just stealing them, period, and Ford's ethics push him to make sure the right thing gets done, while the rest want to ensure that they get what was initially promised them.
White Hats, Black Hearts. The Leverage crew infiltrates
a building swarming with FBI agents.
(L-R: Bellman, Hutton, Riesgraf, Kane, Hodge)
Joining the crew in mid-story is grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), an aspiring actress with delusions of talent. She overemotes, delivers her lines in stilted fashion, and absolutely apalls audiences. When Eliot points this out to Nathan, he explains, "This is not her stage." When working a con job, the real Sophie comes out: smooth, elegant, and charmingly believable, able to speak six languages and fake a dozen more. With Sophie's help, the team will eventually exact vengeance and get payback.
Leverage premieres December 7 at 10pm (9pm CT). Packed with action, intrigue, and double- and triple-crosses that will make your head snap, Leverage has all the elements necessary to make it a ratings heavyweight contender, if not indeed a ratings champion. Each character is strong and unique -- this is an ensemble cast with no dead weight, no hangers-on.
TNT won't leave new viewers waiting long for more Leverage. A second episode, "The Homecoming Job," will air two days later, December 9, and serves to entrench the team more on the side of the angels, as they uncover a conspiracy between an elected official and the CEO of a no-bid security force contractor -- a conspiracy stumbled upon by an injured Iraq War veteran whose life is put in the crosshairs.