Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Alison Willmore
December 3, 2013 5:15 PM
9 Comments
  • |

Frank Darabont's 1940s Gangster Miniseries 'Mob City' is So Noir It's Almost Silly

Doug Hyun/TNT Jon Bernthal in 'Mob City'

"Mob City," the miniseries premiering on TNT this Wednesday, December 4th at 9pm, is set in a 1940s Los Angeles so stylistically noir it resembles "Sin City" more than any actual time and place. It's so noir that it starts off with a character intoning about how you used to be able to tell the bad guys from the good guys in westerns by the color of the hats they wore, but "in real life, it's different." We've just watched a young Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky and a gangster pal of theirs, Sid Rothmen, Tommy gun down some rivals in a flashback, and in another one to follow we'll see their main foe on the side of law and order, William H. Parker, commit an act of equally showy badassery. The only difference between the good and bad guys here is that the bad guys tend to dress a little better.

"Mob City" is the creation of Frank Darabont, the director of "The Mist" and "The Shawshank Redemption" who had the misfortune of getting kicked off his last TV project, "The Walking Dead," only to see it go on to even greater success without him on board. Darabont's worked in television before, as a writer on "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" and "Tales from the Crypt," but he's a movie guy at heart, tending to think big even when working on the small screen. In the pilot of "The Walking Dead," which he helmed, he summoned a powerful quality of unsettling, cavernous silence. More impressively expansive abandoned landscapes have turned up in films like "I Am Legend" and "28 Days Later," but the world of that first episode of the AMC zombie series rang unmistakably, spookily hollow -- emptied out, the only moving things left not ones you'd want to come across.

"Mob City" also comes across as larger than life and a little empty, maybe because the tropes it's built on are so well worn they're almost impossible to read as anything other than parody. It lives in a land of cinema -- the neon light of the divey hotel, the hardboiled voice-over, the sharp suits and dark-eyed dames and dialogue that would shatter at the slightest wink. ("Look, you don't know me -- why ruin a good thing?" mutters someone to a persistent type at a bar.) But there's no winking to be found in the two of the six total episodes of the miniseries I've seen, just a deep and mostly enjoyable reveling in genre details. And why not? For all that it's on a fancier network and takes itself more seriously, "Boardwalk Empire" often feels like an excuse for a terrific group of character actors to put on period clothing and chew the old-fashioned scenery. "Mob City" does the same, with less substance but a more palpable feeling of pleasure in itself. Its characters may be fueled by post-war anxiety or distress, but the series itself is powered by a sense of cool.

Jon Bernthal, himself a "Walking Dead" alum, is our entree into the war between the gangsters and the cops being chronicled in "Mob City," playing Joe Teague, a Marine turned at least somewhat dirty cop. Teague is contacted by Hecky Nash (Simon Pegg, nicely weaselly in a serious role), a stand-up comedian with a potentially dangerous plan to make some cash and get out of town.

Nash brings Teague into contact with both sides of the law, as he's got his hands on evidence valuable both to the gangsters like Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke) and Siegel (Edward Burns) and to LAPD chief Parker (Neal McDonough) and his crew. Then there's Alexa Davalos as a woman who either is or is in trouble and Milo Ventimiglia as Teague's old war buddy turned mob lawyer Ned Stax. They're all entangled in a knotty affair involving backstories and motivations not yet revealed, and that don't really seem all that important. "I need a pal." "Get a dog." If that exchange, made gruffly in the dramatically lit Bunny's Jungle Club, could make you smile, then "Mob City" should go down easy.

9 Comments

  • Slip | December 19, 2013 6:12 PMReply

    I loved the show!!! It was great. I hope they will make more episodes. But I have been disappointed before TNT had a show I loved called Dark Blue they made 2 seasons an because the rest of the country didn't like it as much as me they cancelled it. I thought it was the best cop show on tv so I'm here wrighting today about Mob City cause I would hate to see this show disappear. It is my new favorite show and what makes it really hot fire is it's actually based on a true story I can't think of a single show that's based on a true story. I love the idea of a true mob tv show wish there was more like it. In my opinion it's one of the best shows ever!

  • bob duckett | December 10, 2013 2:12 PMReply

    Thought the bartender was very hot and seductive-hope we see more of her. Anybody know who the singer was at the end of the second hour??

  • Jimmy | December 5, 2013 9:22 PMReply

    Loved it. My favorite new show! We need more shows like this on TV!

  • Frog | December 5, 2013 10:39 AMReply

    It IS silly and some if it is really noir cookie cutter. But that's why I like it. It's gorgeous and the cast is impressive. Been waiting for Bernthal back on my screen forever. And he's quite good if a little subdued as Joe Teague. I want more playfulness or danger from him. Right now I think the gangsters are more interesting than the cops. Cops need some backstory for me to care about them more. And I love the music and atmosphere. It's unique on tv. There is nothing like it on and it feeds my love with that style even if it gets a bit cliche. I really enjoyed it and will be back for the rest. Also I have to disagree about walking dead. The first six are the best of them. There are other fun eps scattered in, but it's really been less compelling since those first six. The show has devolved into a gorey but rote zombie show with very few characters I care about. Glenn, Carol, Maggie, Michonne, Rick, Carl are the only ones I care about. Of the new ones, which new characters from after Darabont's stint are there to enjoy? Michonne. That's it. With most of the women dead or banished it's a sausage fest and let's be honest, it was really only Shane's or Rick's sausage that was ever really interesting.

  • Frog is thirsty | December 8, 2013 3:51 AM

    Frog, you clearly wrote this huge paragraph to profess your intense horniness for Shane/Rick. Thus, I recommend you touch yourself to the thought of them and spare the rest of us from your fantasy. Good day ma'am.

  • lesliesowell85@yahoo.com | December 4, 2013 10:48 AMReply

    like Jack replied I didnt even know that some people able to make $9181 in a few weeks on the internet. read this post here http://clck.ru/8vrmm

  • Greg | December 3, 2013 11:04 PMReply

    Here is the REAL CULPRIT http://www.http://sundancefilmfestival2013.com/

    THIS IS A @*&^^%^%#$@#%CRIME!!!

  • Jason | December 3, 2013 5:35 PMReply

    terrible review. he wasn't kicked of TWD. He stood up to them to make an episode better...and regardless of the ratings the story of the show has tanked, so many episodes where nothing happens. "So Noir, it's Almost Silly"? your review is silly. Mob City looks fantastic and it's about time some real style comes back to hollywood.

  • Joe H. | December 4, 2013 12:58 AM

    I agree, TWD kinda sucks. And regarding style, I agree there as well. I think too often people tend to separate style from substance when I feel they are inseparably linked. Consider two heavily stylized films: Requiem for a Dream and Chicago, both of which wouldn't be the films they are had their style been different or toned down. The meaning of those films isn't always understood, but felt in a way only style can deliver.