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The Set Up

Our hero finds himself with a dead body in the trunk of his car, a photo of him dragging the corpse, and three thugs, led by fight promoter and fellow ex-con Kliff (James Russo), who blackmail him into getting them through the security devices he built.

Our hero finds himself with a dead body in the trunk of his car, a photo of him dragging the corpse, and three thugs, led by fight promoter and fellow ex-con Kliff (James Russo), who blackmail him into getting them through the security devices he built.

Everyone goes through paces with aplomb, and Zane (“Sniper,””Dead Calm”), a standout as the put-upon hero, suggests he’d be a natural for more sophisticated fare. Russo’s electric Kliff role wears thin fast. Sara makes a valiant if vain attempt to make Gina more complex than she is. Droll Coburn, of course, plays it with self-assurance.

Writer Michael Thoma’s plot springs few jolts, though director Hamilton keeps a secure hand on the bank robbery segs, most of which could be ticked off by viewers. The blood quotient is high enough for cable’s demands. Dull shoulders-and-sheets sequences drone on.

Production looks smart, tech credits and location filming are top-flight. Designer Richard Reynolds uses a downtown L.A. Bank of America and the former L.A. Herald Examiner building as rich locales for the frenetic action. Conrad Pope’s fresh score furnishes some tension.

The Set Up

(Sun. (23), 8-10 p.m., Showtime)

Production: Filmed in L.A. by TriCoast and MGM/UA. Exec producer, Barry Bernardi; producer, Julia Verdin; director, Strathford Hamilton; co-producer, writer, Michael Thoma; based on book "My Laugh Comes Last" by James Hadley Chase; camera, David Lewis; editor, Marcy Hamilton; production designer, Richard Reynolds; sound, Peter Mesiselmann; music, Conrad Pope. Cast: Billy Zane, Mia Sara, James Russo, James Coburn, Louis Mandylor, Tiny (Zeus) Lister, Mark Rolston, Margaret Avery, Lisa Collins, Vincent Deadrick Jr., Shannon Wilcox, Paula Coburn, Ed Wasser, Brent Morris, Tom Muzila, Stephen Lofaro, Roy Jenson, Kevin McLaughlin. Anything but a top copy of a nerve-jangling caper story, "The Set Up" turns in cleverness and mechanics for human challenges. Despite a convincing interp by Billy Zane of an ex-con forced to engineer an elaborate bank job, the telefilm under Strathford Hamilton's direction just wears itself out. Back in circulation after six years up the river for busting into a bank, Charles Thorpe (Zane) is hired by bank prez Jeremiah Cole (James Coburn), who wants whiz kid Thorpe to design a foolproof security system for his bank. Thorpe's almost immediately lassoed by Gina (Mia Sara), Cole's ex-sex kitten, who slips into Thorpe's newly free life.

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