TV Review: ‘Leverage – The Runway Job’

"Leverage"

Having never watched TNT’s Leverage before, I didn’t really know quite what to expect. On the surface, and from the promos I’ve seen, it looked to be a somewhat interesting story of a group of con artists, hackers, muscle men and a smarmy, intelligent leader who plan and execute elaborate cons to extract revenge for wrongdoings done to helpless individuals. Sort of like Mission Impossible meets Robin Hood or The A-Team.

Put that premise together with a cast which features some pretty good actors, including Angel alum Christian Kane and Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton, and you should have the makings of a pretty great hour of TV. With Leverage, you mostly do, with a few notable exceptions.

In the third season opener “The Runway Job,” Nathan Ford (Hutton) and his team are back in action. This time around they are taking down some ruthless evil people in the seedy world of fashion. The world of fashion, much like other facets of entertainment, serves up a host of despicable characters ripe for revenge.

They’ve most likely gotten to their lofty positions on the backs of other, less fortunate individuals, so they definitely need to be taken down a size or two. So, this setting and story of a couple that runs a sweatshop making knockoffs and baits unsuspecting Chinese immigrants into working there, is a perfect way for new viewers such as myself to get acquainted with Ford and company.

The story is timely and interesting and the sweatshop couple are so despicable that you want them to suffer at the hands of Ford and his team. Not suffer until they are dead, mind you, just suffer enough to be humiliated and ruined financially. Hopefully, they will also learn a valuable lesson along the way.

The art of the con goes into full swing with Tara Cole (Jeri Ryan) in her first time out as a full fledged member of the team. Her role in the con? She plays a big time fashionista with an even bigger fish on the hook in the form of Jacques Bouvier, the fake banker Timothy Hutton’s character assumes the role of.

Sadly, while amusing, this character felt somewhat out of place and over the top. Not having seen Leverage before, I’m not sure if this kind of persona is the norm for Hutton’s character or if this was an unusual case. Nevertheless, it felt somewhat forced and didn’t seem to fit. Perhaps it was a case of Hutton wanting to stretch as an actor? We’ll never know.

Also, certain story elements such as the Yakuza connection and the excessive use of explosives also seemed out of place for a show ostensibly about the intricacies of the con. I realize that this is the first episode of a new season so Leverage‘s producers probably wanted to start off big, but I would have preferred more of the con game and some intelligent, well written drama, to another needlessly overdrawn action sequence which other shows with larger budgets, like Fox’s 24, can do much better.

Still, even with its faults and missteps, Hutton and company still manage to entertain. It’s also nice to see Jeri Ryan on TV again. Her combination of looks, brains, toughness and vulnerability are a welcome addition to any show. I hope she stays around longer or, if not, end up on another show.

At the end of the day, Leverage accomplishes most of what it sets out to do. Its at times funny, smart, dramatic and has more than enough action. Plus, it manages to put it all together in a pretty attractive and technically proficient package. From this one episode I can’t say yet if Leverage is a great show, but it is a good one which accomplishes another very important thing: I’ll watch the next episode.

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