Have you been watching TNT’s Mob City? For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it is a mini-series, or in the parlance of TNT, an Event Series. It will be broadcast on three consecutive Wednesdays – December 4th, 11th, and 18th – with two hours each night.
As Wednesday was the day before yesterday, we’ve now seen the first four hours of the show. Set in Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 1947, the series screams NOIR as loud as it can. The production is filled with period cars, clubs, and clothes. Everyone smokes, all the music is jazz, and the show simply oozes with its overdone neon atmosphere.
Watch for the gal whose apartment overlooks a huge flashing neon sign. I once spent one night in a pensione in Grenoble, France, with a similar sign. But we had no choice. But to rent a place like that and you live there. Not for me. Then again, flashing neon was how it was in 1947 in Lala-land. And this fits perfectly with the entire noir style.
Rather than recap 4 hours, I’ll give you a bit of an introduction/overview. You can always see the chapters you missed via the on demand gizmo from your cable company.
As I said, it is 1947 LA. Crime is rampant as is corruption. But not every cop is bad or on the take. The gangsters in question for this series are Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke) and Bugsy Siegel (Ed Burns). Meyer Lansky is involved too. This is the so-called Jewish Mafia. There are Italian gangsters too, but they’re mostly on the periphery.
On the police we have a Mob Squad headed up by William H. Parker who is played by Neil McDonough. At the time of this series, Parker is just a Captain of Detectives. He would go on in real life to become the head of the LAPD. In fact, the Parker Center, the police HQ in LA for four decades was named after him. His number 2 is Detective Hal Morrison played by Jeffrey DeMunn. But the star of the series is Jon Bernthal as Detective Joe Teague, a decorated war hero and former marine.
As the series begins, Detective Teague finds a note in his mailbox asking him to meet at some LA watering hole. Guess what this episode’s title is? A Guy Walks Into a Bar in case you were wondering.
There he meets a not the least bit funny comedian, Hecky Nash, played by Simon Pegg. Nash wants to break out of his small time status, catch a break as he says, so he decides to threaten the mob by saying if he’s not paid, he’ll turn over some incriminating evidence to the cops. This is a standard blackmail job. Hecky hopes to cash out and be on his way to greener pastures. He describes himself – Don’t confuse me with upstanding.
He describes LA: This city. So damn beautiful. But only from a distance. Up close, it’s all gutter. But you’d think that Nash hasn’t the stones to pull it off. Hell, he’s not even close to being funny as comedian. Well, he thinks the same thing himself, so he asks Teague to come along just to have his back. Nothing to sweat. Because the mob just didn’t shoot cops in those days. Teague would be paid a grand for an hour’s work.
Teague is a solid, no-nonsense, fearless cop, but his morality is certainly questionable. He describes LA: You know what I see – high rises, low-lifes, bright lights and back-alleys. In a world filled with white hats and black hats – he wears a grey hat. Any way the comedian has set up a meet with the mobsters in Baldwin Hills, a place so lacking in value that they said you wouldn’t want to be caught dead there [much less alive]. I won’t tell you what he is selling to the mob, but I will say that his deal between he and the mob goes off without a hitch.
But as the first episode ends there’s a shocker tossed at you.
In the second episode, called Reason To Kill a Man, which also played on the 4th – we get deeper into the LA crime scene. There’s the cops, the Jewish mobsters, a pretty nightclub photographer, and lots of wet pavements shot at night (and here I thought it never rained in LA). There’s a nice assortment of period cars, buses, even trolleys. Since Teague told his bosses that he was going to cover Hecky Nash’s six, they are very interested. There’s a shocker at the very end of the second episode as well.
On Wednesday, the 11th – the violence was ratcheted all the way up. You’d think they had lots of blank ammo that some one was paying them to get rid of. It was seriously over the top. Way too far over the top. Borderline ludicrous if you asked me. In fact, overkill seems to be the leitmotiv of the show. You’ve heard the expression – slain gangland style? I thought that was supposed to me one or two bullets in the gut, then a coup d’gras to the head. On this show, every one is given the swiss cheese assassination – you know, more holes than you can count. Bloody doesn’t even begin to be accurate .
Okay, it’s not all bad. Teague has his charms. Though he looks like an ex-prize fighter, he is kind of hunky. He’s straight out of the John Garfield school of acting, or you could call him Bogey with muscles .
He’s fun to watch – that is until the extended merry-go-round shootout which went on forever. But he was only in that horrid scene – he didn’t write it.
The night club photographer called Jasmine Fontaine is a very cool dame. She’s played marvelously by Alexa Davalos who you may remember played opposite Daniel Craig in Defiance. Yes, it is a role that would have been handed off to Lauren Bacall 70 years ago, and Ms Davalos will certainly bring Bacall to mind.
There’s a third character worthy of mention. That would be Sid Rothman – who is the sharp end of the stick for Cohen and Siegel. Played with almost devilish glee by Robert Knepper, this Sid Rothman is an artiste in every sense of the word. Not only can he play the violin, but he’s also a virtuoso with hand guns. Watch what he does to a couple of guys in a restaurant. Besides that he is a very cool customer. The police can’t rattle him at all.
Okay, what have we got so far?Lots of atmosphere, nice clothes and cars, attractively lighted faux city streets, and noir, tons of noir. We’ve got shootouts galore, and you’d need a truck to cart away all the shell casings. Did I mention fedoras? When you have fedoras, you’ll also have plenty of macho tough guy posturing. Some cool dames, and yes some internal bickering among the upper echelons of the cops.
And one more thing – plot holes galore. But if I go down that road, I’ll need to post spoiler warnings. So I’ll just let it go.
The series was created by Frank Darabont who is best remembered for The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and for being fired from The Walking Dead. For sure, Darabont knows how to work well with male actors. So I was pleasantly pleased (and surprised) by what he’s done for Davalos as Jasmine Fontaine.
The show has plenty to offer and while it is far from being noteworthy, you will find it entertaining. Catch the first four episodes via On-Demand, and the final two next Wednesday night on TNT.