Heist movies live and die by their ability to find the right balance between drama and comedy. The heroes are usually pretty shabby, tragic figures, but their best cons are nothing less than masterpieces in theatrical farce.
TNT's terrific drama Leverage, about a group of con artists who play Robin Hood in modern-day Boston, has the perfect mix.
The show's latest season, Leverage: Third Season, was released this week, just ahead of the fourth-season premiere on TNT.
Leverage star Timothy Hutton puts down Leverage's success to the peculiar energy whipped up by the show's ensemble cast, which includes a supremely flirtatious Gina Bellman as confidence trickster Sophie, Christian Kane as bruiser Eliot, Aldis Hodge as the computer and tech head Hardison, and a remarkable Beth Riesgraf as the emotionally challenged safecracker Parker.
"We knew the show was going to have moments of real drama," Hutton, 50, says from Los Angeles. The other part of the mix, the levity, came as a surprise to show creators John Rogers and Chris Downey. They were smart enough to keep it.
"They embraced the comedy right away and it got worked into the [pilot] script," Hutton says.
Hutton's character, insurance investigator-turned-heist mastermind Nathan Ford, is a study in darkness and light: Ford left his cushy job when his young son died after his insurance company refused to pay for a potentially lifesaving procedure.
"The possibilities were completely open-ended in terms of where the characters would go," says Hutton. "And because he was so broken and so messed up inside, I felt there weren't a lot of rules. You could be insane at times, funny at times, angry about what had happened to him."
Hutton keeps mum about the new season, except to say Nathan and Sophie's tortured semiromantic relationship comes to a head. What's more, Hutton says, Parker, who seems to lack any social graces, finds love.
Some of this year's most exciting dramas come not from HBO but from its sister network, HBO Latino. Three are being released on DVD by Maya Home Entertainment (
Hijos del Carnaval (Sons of Carnival) Season 1 & Season 2. This Portuguese-language hit from Brazil is a cross between a family soap and a gangster epic. The show opens on the birthday of self-styled godfather Anésio Gebara, who owns a samba school, and runs an illegal lottery. The show is propelled by the constantly shifting power play between the 75-year-old boss and his three sons, each of whom was born to women of different ethnic backgrounds. ($29.98; not rated.)
Capadocia: Season 1. A hard-hitting, violent, yet strangely moving tale, this series from Mexico tells the story of society's most powerless class - female prisoners.
The story is set in an experimental women's prison in Mexico City, which authorities are using to test-run enlightened reforms. In reality, it was created by local manufacturers and investors as a source of cheap forced labor. ($19.98; not rated.)
Epitafios: Season 2. Crime thrillers don't get more brilliant, or gruesome, than this intense serial-killer series from Argentina.
As with its debut year, the entire season revolves around the activities of a vicious killer who stalks the streets of Buenos Aires. Cecilia Roth gives a stellar performance as one of the cops on the killer's tail. Trouble is, Cecilia has demons of her own. She confronts them by playing Russian roulette at an underground club against other suicidal adrenaline junkies.
Epitafios, which is due July 12, is not for the fainthearted. But it is a must-see for fans of the genre. ($19.98; not rated.)