Some Funkafied Leverage

Con movies are already tough to pull off. You have to have characters that aren’t mere reworkings of existing clichés, and plot twists that aren’t blatantly derivative and leave you insulted.

Compare The Score (2001) with Inside Man (2006). The former has major actors (Brando-DeNiro-Norton) stuck in a banal story that meanders and lumbers along, whereas the latter is a beautifully structured con with a solid reveal that has you respecting the characters for their ingenuity, and leaving the theatre with a smile for being taken for a fun ride.

Repeating a successful formula on a weekly basis is an even bigger challenge when the budget is smaller, and the time allotted to prepping, enacting, and wrapping up a con is restricted to 40 minutes.

Moreover, there’s the challenge of creating thieves you like rather than thieves who deserve to be beaten up with a lead pipe.

(Actually I’m wrong there. Thieves invigorated by the con and a sense of Robin Hood sense of do-goodery creates contrasts so our loathing is redirected towards bigger, colder, greedier thieves. That, plus genial thieves conning evil thieves who kill innocent people works, too, as with The Italian Job.)

TNT’s Leverage debuted in 2008, and the DVD came out a year later. The gradual buzz has turned the show into a hit, and with Season 2 wrapping up just last week, the DVD will be released May 25, and production on Season 3 has already begun.

The advantage of the tight broadcast and DVD release dates is that viewers hooked on the show won’t have to wait long to revisit the show on home video, and newbies wanting to catch up with prior seasons before the new one airs can do so with some pretty loaded DVD sets.

Those wanting more Leverage can also revisit the series via La-La Land’s CD, which features all of Joseph LoDuca’s funky signature themes and some dramatic and source cuts.

LoDuca has written a lot of music since his 1981 debut with Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, and while his name will always be tied to Raimi’s bloody exploits of a schmo named Ash trying to fend off pure evil, the composer’s been writing music for many other genres in TV and film, but Leverage is definitely one of his best works to date.

Con films need electric, witty music, and LoDuca’s series theme encapsulates what it’s like to be in on a con, and be a part of the team. The undulating bass line just keeps pulling us into each drama and, as I discovered, if one watches the series in clumps of 2-3 episodes, the theme also worms its way into the brain, playing in the background during a walk down the street, sitting quietly in the living room, or chopping garlic and adding it to simmering onions before they start to brown. (It’s about frantic movement, see?)

So in addition to a review of the soundtrack CD which assembles material from the show’s first two seasons, I’ve also uploaded an interview with LoDuca, where he talks about the show’s distinct sound, as well as some quick comments on a personal LoDuca favourite of mine, the cult series American Gothic (1995-1996), which (in my eyes) CBS killed with malice. (The DVD set from Universal is still in print, and is worth hunting down.)

There’s also a lengthy review of Leverage, Season 1 (Paramount), and unlike the Doc Martin series reviews, it’s spoiler-free!



Copyright © mondomark