Mob City: 1.01-2 - A Guy Walks Into a Bar/Reason to Kill a Man
Spoilers ahead - Fox plans to show Mob City in the UK from the 17th January 2014 so read no further if you wish to wait
Currently, and rather retrogressively, Frank Darabont is being hit up to remake The Mist for TV. I do hope he find better ways of spending his time than revisiting old glories but perhaps it's a sign of how low his stock has fallen that TV re-runs are the main avenues open to him. This is the man after all who made The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and who was screwed over after creating the excellent first season of The Walking Dead. Give the man another horror film, he'd be great at it, go on...do it.
His latest project for the small screen is full of big screen aspirations. It even begins with smoky streets at night and three men carrying violin cases, a sumptuously photographed scene and perfect costumes and period vehicles. This is no CW polyester re-imagining of medieval times, this is bona fide gangsters and hard boiled cops cinematic rendering. Even when our three men are forced to play their instruments, we know that the fiddles will give way to the percussion of bullets. This is organised crime, see.During this initial skirmish, we are introduced to our historical protagonists, Bugsy Siegel, Sid Rothman and Meyer Lansky. Men who put organised crime on the map and who will serve to provide the villains to this piece. We are soon bounced out of the twenties into the now, well the late forties, and Jon Bernthal's detective is approached by comedian Simon Pegg to act as bodyguard on a blackmail gig he is pulling off against these three. Surprisingly, Bernthal agrees but his interest in the gig is rumbled at his precinct and he is forced to share his info with the organised crime task-force - he agrees to be their man on the inside.
Well, our comedian has photos of what looks like an assassination and the mob is willing to take them off his hands, living or dead. Our comedian is doing this for a pay-day, so he can escape with his girl and Bernthal is his insurance for the night meet in a quarry. Sid Rothman comes in person but with a bodyguard there he has to exchange, and our comedian is grinning from ear to ear before he learns that his bodyguard has other loyalties. Our cop shoots him and takes the cash, only to return it to the mob refusing a tip from Bugsy.So what makes a cop shoot a guy for nothing? Why would that cop then refuse 50 grand as a thank you for this act. Why would that cop risk getting the mob and the police department up his ass? Could it be he just didn't enjoy the comedian's jokes as he said or does he know the dame and want to save her from the almighty mess her funny boy lover has gotten into?
As Mob City opened on a feature length double episode you get your answers to those questions in the second half. Our cop is not conventionally dirty, he was married once and guess who to? Now though Bugsy wants to know why he did it, the cops are following his ex-wife and none too keen on him after the botched sting at the quarry. As Bugsy's trusted henchman, Sid is well versed at gunning down trouble and it looks like our guy is coming into his sights. So there's the set-up, shades of grey, pure evil and a wise guy trying to play the angles for love. It sounds promising but then it sounds like many noirs and neo-noirs before it. It also sounds and looks like many gangster movies before it with the freeze frames, the knowing narration, the glamour and the violence. Now as reassuring giving the people what they want stuff Mob City works, but once you start doing that don't you run the risk that they may choose to go back to the old favourites anyway?
Still, if not novel it's well acted, well cast and very entertaining. Pegg does a rather good line in patsy and it's always good to see Robert Knepper doing sociopath after his recent turn in The Blacklist. There's nothing too existential yet or any greater depth other than warm pastiche, still this is much better than a lot of the slop we get in these parts. Recommended.
Fox will show Mob City in January 2014