TV

Leverage

Each week Nate (Timothy Hutton) oversees a masterful scheme to steal from skeevy rich people and give back to relatively and always ethically sound poor people.

Leverage

Airtime: Tuesdays, 10pm ET
Cast: Timothy Hutton, Beth Riesgraf, Aldis Hodge, Gina Bellman, Christian M. Kane
MPAA rating: N/A
Network: TNT
US release date: 2008-12-07
Website
Trailer
Amazon
Buying a United States Congressman is one of the best investments a company can make.

-- Charles Dufort (Richard Cox), "The Homecoming Job"

As it happens, tonight's second episode of Leverage is startlingly topical. That is, it's focused on the escapades of a private "security" contractor -- here named, oh so insidiously, Castleman. The episode begins with a video-in-progress, being made by a soldier in Iraq for his stateside fiancée. "See those guys," he says to her, pointing his camera toward a squad of men in desert camo and high-end protective vests. "They're private contractors, they make 700 bucks a day, I make seven." At that point, the contractors notice him -- and they begin shooting.

Here the video stops and replays, as Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) asks some questions. The young man who shot the video is now in a wheelchair, about to be cast out of a VA hospital, his rehab unfinished and his fiancée long gone, his face drawn and scarred. All he wants, the kid says, is to have the rest of his treatment paid for. They owe him, he intimates, though the "they" is not precisely named. Nate nods. "They" should pay, he agrees. And he's just the man to make that happen.

There are numerous elements in this fantasy that make it fantastic, including the fact that the video camera caught the shooters doing damage, the victim is explicitly a Caucasian American troop, and the heroic con men and techs at Nate's company Leverage have the inclination and wherewithal to make it all right. This is, after all, the series' premise, established during its scene-setting premiere on Sunday, 7 December: Nate's diversely talented and backgrounded crew take up this case with a mix of moral and nerdy interests (translation: they like beating the system because the system is so corrupt, broken, and inept, that it deserves to be beaten, again and again).

The show is standard Mission Impossibley in too many ways. Each week Nate oversees a masterful scheme in which his team steals from skeevy rich people to give back to relatively and always ethically sound poor people. Its action is order by a pulsing synthetic soundtrack, deep blue shadows, expensive toys rigged by techs Parker (Beth Riesgraf) and Alec (Aldis Hodge), and a weekly martial arts display by endearingly scruffy expert Eliot (Christian M. Kane) ("That's what I do," he announces in Episode One after laying out a team of guards with deft kicks and jabs, his pride subtle but undeniable). Nate may or may not have a romance brewing with shapely British grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), someone with whom he once tangled -- back when he worked as an investigator for an insurance company and considered himself technically lawful. Now, he's abandoned that notion and rejected the official structures as irredeemably immoral. He and his uniformly pretty crew members see themselves as good outlaws battling bad insiders.

The startlingly topical focus of the current episode is accidental but nearly instructive. With the announcement yesterday that the U.S. government has indicted five Blackwater Worldwide security guards on manslaughter charges, it might appear that private contractors are in trouble, their erstwhile carte blanche in U.S.-ordained theaters of war rescinded. Many questions have been raised concerning these "soldiers of fortune" in the past, not least by the excellent documentary Shadow Company or Jeremy Scahill's investigative journalism (as well as his book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army and P.W. Singer's Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry. Each of these texts retells the history of mercenaries and contextualizes today's versions amid advancing technologies, blurring national borders, and scads of money, noting the dangers inherent in such expansions. Indeed, their role in U.S. war-making has expanded exponentially during the Bush administration, with some observers estimating that payment to private contractors in Iraq alone will surpass $100 billion by the end of this year.

In Leverage, the contractors encountered by the team are thugs, including the founder and CEO Charles Dufort (Richard Cox). In cahoots with a snidely congressman (Robert Pine), Dufort uses Castelman to steal cash from the U.S. government, which makes him especially villainous. Even if his employees are trained professionals and like to shoot at people, the show suggests, his material, venal focus is beyond the pale.

If the first and second episodes of Leverageare indicative, the distinctions between good and bad guys will be clear during each adventure, and the recipients of Nate's largesse will be deserving, having been abused by powers that be or that wannabe. As Nate puts it at the end of the first episode, which guest-starred Saul Rubinek as an squirrely engineer and ineffective con man, "Corporations have all the money, all the power." He means to refit that imbalance, to provide what he calls "leverage" against all that corporate weight. In this, Leverage, however retro its premise, appeals to a timely sense of grievance and outrage.

5

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image