Leverage is one of those basic cable shows that I remember hearing about but never locked into. The buzz was good but since I don’t watch the network I never saw any ads for the series. When this season one DVD was sent my way I was happy to get back to the series and take a look.
The hook of this series falls somewhere between The A Team and Ocean’s 11. Timothy Hutton plays an investigator that worked for an insurance company tracking down thieves that stole art or other pricey items that the insurance company covered. When his son dies because the insurance company won’t cover his medical bills Hutton’s character Nathan Ford assembles a group of thieves he once caught for various crimes to steal computer designs from a corrupt company. After some twists and turns the group comes out very wealthy. None of them needs to steal anymore but they quite like doing it so Ford puts together a company that uses the team’s abilities to help people. So they do continue to steal something each week but now they do it Robin Hood style.
Leverage isn’t an extremely serialized show. Mostly there’s a new case each week with the team having to run some sort of scam to help individuals and even companies. There are a few times in the early episodes where victims said a few too many times something like “I just want what’s mine” or I just want exactly what I’m owed”. I understand the point of that sort of language but it’s just a bit ham fisted in those early episodes. In those scenes I was reminded of Charlie Brown cartoons with Lucy screaming “I just want what’s coming to me, I just want my fair share!” Another issue is Nathan Ford’s on again off again alcoholism. In one episode he’s barely functioning from a previous night’s drunk and in the next it seems to be no issue at all. Eventually there is an episode, probably the worst of the season, where Nathan finds himself in rehab in order to pull a scam. The rehab just sort of stops for him with no resolution or point to it. Every character seems to have personal addictive issues though. They’re all addicted to something whether is the high from the danger, the simple need to steal, or the need to perform some computer hackery. Minor complaints aside this ensemble cast is fun to watch and they seem to have great chemistry on screen. The super geek computer guy is a little stereotypical and predictable but at the same time he’s the funniest one of the group. Also having the sweet face female being the most danger seeking of the group isn’t much of a stretch but again she’s great in the role so the predictability doesn’t really matter. Gina Bellman is at some points the best actor on screen and at a few other instances the worst. Overall she’s really great bu5 she constantly has to perform with different dialects and her southern accent isn’t just awful but it also seems to really come and go during longer bits of dialogue.
The heists are clever and the production is fast paced and exciting. Special FX also look really great and the camera tricks are modern and exhilarating. The production is actually very similar to another show I’m a fan of called Burn Notice. There are just a couple of dud episodes in this season but most often from episode to episode the series is really great fun. Throughout the season the team is always ready to break up and go it alone. This comes from the nature of their business. A common scene is an overhead shot of the group splitting up. The closing seconds of the last episode of the season offers a nice play on this scene and from one aspect sets up the characters as a true family dynamic and from another aspect winks at the audience that yes we (the filmmakers/writers) realize we’ve done this same scene a lot.
The video here is very typical TV to DVD stuff. Colors are good overall and detail in brighter scenes is solid. Darker scenes on the other hand get a bit murky and feature a good amount of grain. It’s not exceptional but it’s also not horrible. This is a standard TV transfer, which is just fine.
The audio here is similar to the video. The surround presentation is fairly basic and front loaded. There some basic use of surround speakers for music and action packed scenes but overall everything comes from the front speakers. Dialogue, score, and sound effects are well mixed and clear. Again audibly basic but easily listenable.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The four disc set is presented in a slim case with a glossy slipcover featuring the cast. There’s not much in the originality of the art unfortunately but it gets the job done.
The best bonus feature on the last disc is a making of featurette. It’s your typical featurette that mixes cast and crew interviews with behind the scenes footage. Yes it does feel a bit like a marketing video but there are some great bits in this featurette between the sound bites.
There are two sort of odd featurettes; one called “The Cameras of Leverage” and another called “Leverage Gets Renewed”. The first one is just a short montage of shots of the two cameras used for the series. It would have been interesting to have heard from the crew about using these cameras and what the pros and cons of using them have been. The second one is a meeting with the series creator and the cast where he informs them that the show has been renewed. It’s kind of fun to see but it’s again really short and doesn’t offer any depth. It would have been interesting to have heard from the producers about the process of getting the renewal. “Beth Riesgraf’s Crazy Actress Spoof” is honestly a bit self indulgent and boring. There’s a series of deleted scenes on each disc. “Anatomy of a Stunt Fight” is a really brief breakdown of one of the biggest fights of the season.
The meat of the bonus features ahs to be the audio commentaries that appear on each of the episodes. The enthusiastic commentaries, mainly done by the show’s two creators, are extremely informative and they do a great job of enhancing the viewing experience with great behind the scenes information. Occasionally along with the two creators another producer or director will sit on too. Where’s the cast?
Leverage really surprised me at just how much fin the show is. Sure it’s not perfect but it is really entertaining and it features a charismatic cast that holds your interest until the end. I’ll be catching season two of the series when it airs.
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10
The Season 8.5/10
The video 7.5
The Audio 7.5
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10