The life of a child is a strong motivator for any parent. Lee Tae Joon (Lee Dong Gun) has his son’s cure dangled in front of him for a price. That price proves to too high, but a team gathers to battle greed on behalf of the innocent. This is “Leverage.” Join my son, A,lex, and me as we discuss the Korean remake of “Leverage.” Will these first two episodes stand up to its legacy?
Wendilynn: I was excited to see this show because I enjoyed the American version. I happen to love our Korean cast for past work they’ve done, so I was excited to see how this would stack up. I have to say, Kim Sae Ron totally kicks butt as Parker.
Alex: I’m coming to this from a slightly unusual perspective. “Leverage” is probably my favorite show, period. Most K-dramas, though … Certain people (ahem) have tried over and over and over again to get me to watch them, and I’ve bounced off most of the shows I’ve attempted. I was skeptical going into this, but seeing how this sort of very Western story merges with South Korean melodrama definitely interested me. After watching the first two episodes … this has broken my streak. I’m probably gonna have to watch this whole thing.
Wendilynn: bwhahahahahahaha …. Well, you’re reviewing this show with me, so you’re stuck now.
Corruption from those higher up in the social ladder, abusing the poor and innocent, is a common theme in many K-dramas. I’m sure this sort of show idea will connect well with the audience.
Alex: Not to linger too long on why I loooooove original “Leverage,” but that’s the idea, right? It’s all about catharsis of a very modern kind. A mix of the pain and angst and suffering that comes from the struggle to be good in a world tilted against you, and the fun of breaking the rules and getting one up on the bad guys of our time. Fun and impactful — that’s what I was looking for.
Wendilynn: Well, there was certainly lots of fun to be had. I loved the humor. Our poor hacker got burned so many times, and you couldn’t help but love it every time.
Alex: The ensemble cast is important, naturally. The secret weapon to the “Leverage” formula is, of course, Beth Riesgraf’s character in the original, Parker the thief. Here played by (checks notes) Kim Sae Ron as Ko Na Byeol. The show does a very smart thing and starts off immediately with her manic heist antics and her friction with another member of the crew, as if to say, “Yep, we’ve got a Parker, we’ve got that covered.” The first 10 minutes are very, very good at setting the tone in general.
Wendilynn: I’m a huge Kim Sae Ron fan. I’ve loved her since her child actor days. I loved to see her kicking butt. Word to the wise: never piss off a woman who has no problem jumping out windows. Lol
Alex: The quality of the humor in this surprised me. There are some very good jokes and gags that illustrate the less serious characters nicely, which is all I ask for in a dramedy. In the first episode, Ko Na Byeol breaks a sixth-story window, and the person she’s chasing outside, who thought he’d lost her, looks back over his shoulder and is like, “Oh crap.”
Wendilynn: *laughter* Our hacker, played adorably by Yeo Hoi Hyeon, is cowardly in all the right ways for his character. I don’t like most hacker characterizations. They tend to “do” too much, but I thought they handled the believability better than I’ve seen in others. The possible exception being the hacker Ahjummah in Healer, and nobody beats Kim Mi Kyung for selling a character, but this was good. I really liked his character, and this show has no problem putting the little romancing goofball in his place.
Alex: It’s probably for the best that they didn’t try to recreate Aldis Hodge’s Hardison, but I like the direction they went for the Hacker. He’s got just enough charisma to do some face-to-face cons and fieldwork, but when danger mounts his only recourse is to run, hide and sneak. As for believability … In the first three minutes, they use a wrist-mounted grappling hook. “Leverage” isn’t really about believability. It’s a comic-book fantasy. This “Leverage” doesn’t get into incredible detail about how its hacking works. The job is just briefly and stylishly presented and just happens.
Wendilynn: That’s the best way to do it. Lee Dong Gun gave a good performance. I liked the way he played his character. They kept him consistent. With the possible exception of when his son was dying, they kept him smart. Sometimes, they bring in a smart character, but then they lose focus and make him dumb at key moments. That didn’t happen in these episodes, even when he was panicking. I knew it was coming, but his son’s death still got me. You don’t have a show if the son lives. The character’s motivations to get even don’t quite work.
Alex: Ah yes, the Mastermind. The Nathan Ford. Kind of the dramatic center of the show to balance out the comedy, the straight man to everyone else’s act. They do a different thing in this show to the original regarding his motivations. In the original, Nate’s son is already dead and he’s drinking himself to death, hungry for payback, and that’s what leads him down that road. In this one, they explore the circumstances of Lee Tae Joon’s son’s illness and how it connects to the first heist, which I think is an interesting choice. As a whole, the first two episodes are a pretty solid remix of “The Nigerian Job,” the original pilot, with enough differences to make it its own thing.
Wendilynn: That’s one thing I appreciated. It never felt like I was watching a remake. They took ownership of the plot and characters and made it their own. I still crack up at the idea that our actress is so good in schmoozing situations, but put her on stage in a fake one and she can’t make it work to save her life.
Alex: That carries over from the original Grifter, Sophie Devereaux, for sure. It’s a fun character trait. Jeon Hye Bin as Hwang Soo Kyung is fun in this one too. She captures that mix of “how dare you, I’m an ARTIST” and “disappearing into another person” in just the right way. If there’s one person I wish had a bit more stuff to do in this pilot, it’s Kim Kwon as Roy Ryu, our Hitter, the Eliot Spencer equivalent. No opportunities to smack down a room full of security guards more’s the pity — though Ko Na Beyol gets that honor and it’s a fun fight.
Wendilynn: Kim Kwon devastated me in “He is Psychometric,” so I’m glad I get to see him in a different character and different light. In his last drama, he played a character who was unable to feel emotions. Roy Ryu is very emotional and hard-hitting. I’m sure I’m not the only female who liked the cage fight practice scene. Right?
Alex: His character starts in an interesting position, though, compared to the original. At the beginning, he’s the head of security for the company they’re trying to rob. It delighted me that these two episodes flesh out the original pilot and give everyone a slightly more organic way to join the plot than, “They’re thieves who got hired.” Nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned, but for someone like me who knows the original intimately, it’s a kind of “Woah” moment. You don’t want to be up against the Hitter if at all possible.
Wendilynn: Well, I’m excited about where this will take us. They’ve created two very good episodes. It upsets me that the major streaming sites haven’t picked this one up. I get that it’s playing on one of the lessor stations, but for the time being, this will be a secret only the fansub sites will get to enjoy.