'Mob City' seems very familiar

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:43 PM ET

Peering out over the landscape of Los Angeles, one of the characters in the new series Mob City says, "This city ... so damn beautiful ... but only from a distance ... up close, it's all gutter."

The truth is, you could describe a lot of cities that way. But in this case, we're talking about L.A. in 1947.

Mob City, which debuts Wednesday across Canada on Bravo and originates on U.S. cable network TNT, immediately brings to mind a bunch of other stuff I've seen before.

As far as the big screen goes, Mob City has elements of the Warren Beatty movie Bugsy, at least the parts of it that were set in Los Angeles. Beatty played the infamous mobster in that flick, and Bugsy Siegel is a character in Mob City, too, this time portrayed by Edward Burns.

Mob City also feels a bit like L.A. Confidential, which starred Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger. That one was set a little bit later than Mob City, in 1953, but atmospherically there are similarities.

On TV there aren't direct time-frame comparisons, but there are elements of the 1920s-set Boardwalk Empire, the 1950s-set Magic City and the 1960s-set Mad Men. I think of Boardwalk Empire because of the illegal activity and the gangsters and the guns. I think of Magic City for the same reasons. And I think of Mad Men because of a tortured lead character whose experiences in World War II changed the path of his life when he got home.

After serving as a Marine, Joe Teague, played by Jon Bernthal, has become a Los Angeles police detective. When he is asked to help blackmail a high-powered member of the mob, Teague finds himself caught between L.A.'s powerful gangsters and its corrupt law enforcement.

The new mob task force that has recruited Teague is headed by Det. Hal Morrison (Jeffrey DeMunn) and is part of a crusade by Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker (Neal McDonough) to free the city of big-time criminals. The list of potential targets includes not only Bugsy Siegel but also Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke), the ruthless king of the local underworld. Parker also won't hesitate to go after dirty members of his own force if he can suss them out.

Rounding out the cast of Mob City are Gregory Itzin as Mayor Fletcher Bowron, Robert Knepper as Sid Rothman, Milo Ventimiglia as Ned Stax and Alexa Davalos as Jasmine Fontaine. Based on the novel L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City by John Buntin, the TV series is created, written, directed and executive produced by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Walking Dead).

The challenge for Mob City will be taking a lot of familiar elements and weaving them into something that feels new. In the meantime, get ready for more darkness - both literally and figuratively - and cigarette smoke.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

 

 


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