TV Review: Leverage

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Every generation has a TV hero who is tough, brave and principled as he comes to the aid of the Little Guy. But neither Paladin ("Have Gun Will Travel") nor Robert McCall ("The Equalizer") ever enjoyed themselves as much fun as the five members of the "Leverage" squad.

They rappel buildings, hack computers, overpower opponents, pull scams and shift identities with enthusiasm, all the while moving the odds in favor of a nonpaying client who would otherwise be steamrolled. Fortunately, when they get finished, there's always a few extra million dollars to maintain their lavish offices and the high-tech toys needed for the next job.

This, the first TV series for Dean Devlin's Electric Entertainment, is mostly all bells and whistles, but the bells ring loud and the whistles get a lot of attention. TNT's "Leverage" manufactures fun viewing with its marriage of cutting-edge special effects to an attractive cast full of larger-than-life personalities.

In the center of it all is Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton), once a top investigator for a giant insurance company. Something bad happened to him, but the details are sketchy. By the end of the first four episodes, we learn that his own company declined to pay for medical treatments for his young son. The boy died, and Ford went into a downward spiral.



In the premiere, the head of an airplane company hires him to recover plans stolen by a rival. (The episode reunites Hutton with Saul Rubinek, both alums of the A&E "Nero Wolfe" cast.) To pull off the caper, Ford assembles a team of specialists: Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), a computer and gadget genius; Parker (Beth Riesgraf), a daredevil with nimble fingers; Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), a martial arts tough guy; and Sophie Deveraux (Gina Bellman), an aspiring actress whose best performances involve duping others.

As if this group wasn't likable enough, writer-creators John Rogers and Chris Downey stack the deck further by giving them opponents everyone loves to hate, including a bribe-taking congressman, an underhanded private contractor in Iraq, a greedy real estate developer, an overeager Wall Street profiteer and the very insurance company that caused Ford so much grief.

The action is swift, the patter is clever, the casting is smart and the special effects are nimble, all of which adds up to a flashy hour of fun. Following the premiere Sunday, the show moves to its regular time period at 10 p.m. Tuesdays.
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