“The rich and powerful take what they want,” explains a wind-whipped Nathan Ford in the title sequence of Leverage. “We steal it back for you.” It’s his need to punish corrupt wealthy folk that inspired ex-insurance man Ford (played by a nicely weathered Timothy Hutton) to gather up four talented crooks and persuade them to apply their talents to something soul-soothing: altruism. Though, not the charity dinner/sponsored mountain-climb-in-your-underwear kind.
We don’t get to see much of Hutton in the UK (the last time was on Kidnapped) but watching him fill up the screen on Leverage (every Tuesday on Bravo at 8pm) reminds you just how capable he is as a dishevelled, petulant leading man. His newly craggy looks help. He’s 50 now, so sports some take-me-serious facial bloating and a pair of training-jowls.
In Leverage, Ford’s band of wrong’uns sets about helping the defencelessly ripped off or tragedy-struck take back their money, pride and whatever else they need to move on with their lives. The team is like a pack of warped superheroes, each with a special skill. There’s pretty British grifter Sophie (Gina Bellman), Elliot the enforcer (Christain Kane), cat burglar Parker (Beth Riesgraf) and Alec (Aldis Hodge), an extreme-hacker and gizmo-builder. The supporting characters, who range from sweetly selfish to sociopathic, gel well but it’s their boss who has the smarts to keep them together and out of prison.
Hutton’s Ford is the gang’s best brain and their moral centre. Without him you’re not sure that the proceeds from their charity cons will end up with the needy. He’s the only member without a crooked past, plus he has a knack for planning attacks that merge their individual talents into one cohesive con.
Leverage’s leader may be charismatic, kind and a good organiser but he has problems. He’s an alcoholic with a tragic back-story. Ford’s former insurance company employer wouldn’t pay out for his young son’s cancer treatment and he died. So while Leverage majors in scams and escapades, Ford’s sad history gives the show meaty drama it needs not to be dismissed as clowning criminal daftness. Although it is that too. No one ever dies or gets seriously hurt, and scenes in which we’re supposed to think they might quickly descend into comedy chases and laugh-in-death’s-fat-face banter.
Ford may be the only one of the five miscreants who’s believable, but it’s the friction between the deliberately layer-lacking, cartoon crooks and a man who’s in touch with his own darkness that entitles Leverage to be described as more than a daft A-team tribute.