Review: ‘Leverage: Redemption’ holds same appeal amid latest plots and gadgets

Christian Kane (as black ops expert Eliot Spencer) and Noah Wyle (as lawyer turned criminal Harry Wilson) in “Leverage: Redemption.” Photo: Alfonso Bresciani / Amazon Studios / IMDb TV

“Leverage” — the fun, if formulaic, high-tech Robin Hood series that ran for five seasons on TNT starting in 2008 — is back.

Now called “Leverage: Redemption” and streaming on IMDb TV starting Friday, July 9 (eight more episodes are expected to be released in the fall to round out the first season), the show is essentially the same but with “ER” heartthrob Noah Wyle replacing Timothy Hutton as headliner. Returning are the core crew of super-capable criminals who whip up elaborate stings on horridly rich and powerful scumbags with unbelievable ease, always deftly overcoming a complication or two. They not only right the wrongs but also leave the bad guys destitute, humiliated and probably headed for prison.

“Redemption” is revenge fantasy with a social justice strain to make it feel contemporary, though this paradigm has played well in the popular imagination since the Sheriff of Nottingham was boss.

“Leverage” creator Dean Devlin (“Independence Day”) and showrunner Kate Rorick (Devlin’s “Librarians” series) keep things breezy yet eventful in each episode. Efforts to build any character out past two dimensions are less successful, no doubt because no one’s really trying.

The series continuation opens with a sad Sophie Devereaux (British actress Gina Bellman, reprising her role from the original series) waking up in bed alone. She had married Hutton’s insurance-investigator-turned-team-leader Nate Ford and retired from her role as its top grifter. She’s soon met at Ford’s grave by concerned former colleagues Parker, the wacky master thief (Beth Riesgraf); never-lost-a-fight black ops veteran Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane); and computer hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge).

These three agree that, to alleviate her grief, Sophie should get back in the righteous scam game. She’s reluctant, but it doesn’t take much convincing before she and the old band are taking down opioid pharmaceutical magnates, privacy-destroying software moguls and — in an episode that may feel “too soon” following the building collapse in Florida — corner-cutting high-rise developers.

Aleyse Shannon (left, as Breanna Casey), Aldis Hodge (Alec Hardison), Beth Riesgraf (Parker), Gina Bellman (Sophie Devereaux) and Christian Kane (Eliot Spencer) in “Leverage: Redemption.” Photo: Alfonso Bresciani / Amazon Studios / IMDb TV

Hodge, who has thrived on film and television since the show’s first run ended in 2012, is written out after the show’s second installment, while Hardison allegedly moves on to manage Leverage International’s 12 subsidiary teams that have come online during Sophie’s absence. We never see these new groups in action, which feels like a missed opportunity. Most episodes are instead centered in the home operation’s new base in New Orleans, no doubt thanks to Louisiana’s sweet production incentives.

But before Hardison leaves, his kid foster sister Breanna Casey (Aleyse Shannon) conveniently shows up to replace him. She’s just as good an electronics wizard, and the eager if untrained newbie also brings game nerd, EDM fan and Zoomer political consciousness — she says she wants the world to “stop sucking” — in hopes of attracting a young audience.

Good luck with that.

Overall, “Leverage” is Gen Z’s parents’ version of the “Equalizer” or “Mission: Impossible”-type series that babysat earlier generations. Though “Redemption” strives to reference news-cycling issues and the latest technological advances, it’ll probably play best with the people who found the original show an engaging time-waster.

The sequel’s subtitle, by the way, informs the series’ best stab at a deeper theme. It mainly applies to Wyle’s character Harry Wilson, a guilt-ridden corporate lawyer who joins the gang to make amends for all he’s done to aid the evil rich. But if you pay attention and do some squinting, you’ll see how every member of the organization wants to absolve past mistakes.

Conscience rarely dents “Redemption’s” slick superficiality, but reflecting the schemes the show is built around, it lends a layer of credibility to all the amusing trickery.

L“Leverage: Redemption”: Crime series. Starring Noah Wyle, Gina Bellman and Aleyse Shannon. (TV-14. Eight hourlong episodes.) First eight episodes available to stream on IMDb TV starting Friday, July 9.