See It or Free It: 'Mob City'

From Frank Darabont, the writer and director formerly behind TV’s “The Walking Dead” and the Oscar winning “The Green Mile” comes TNT’s 3-week, mini-series event; “Mob City”.  As a fanof the mini-series genre, this definitely promoted itself with massive appeal. A return to prohibition era America and the seedy underworld of the mob has been material for countless film and TV adaptations.

Just this year, the awful “Gangster Squad” starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, forced itself on audiences. Interestingly this project and “Gangster Squad” have a major thing in common.

They both have the appearance of being a fun ride with glitzy cinematography and phenomenal detailing. However, looking the part is only half of the battle and that is where “Mob City” like “Gangster Squad” fails.

The most glaring issue facing the show is that it believes it is far grander than it actually is. The plot is moving at a snail’s pace and they supposedly have 6 hours to tell this story. You cannot afford to study the sharp inhales of series’ lead Jon Bernthal with the concentration the camera affords here, especially when you are working within a tight time frame.

If this series is hoping it will pull an “Under the Dome” and endure past its expiration date, that is wishful thinking. There is barely enough to compel me to tune in for another week. Let alone long term.

The dialogue is infused with a blasé tempo that fails to captivate. We seem to have stepped right into the middle of the character’s lives. The writing assumes that we already know all of the fictional characters and their respective backstories. The problem is, as familiar as audiences are with Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel, they don’t know who the fictional players are if they haven’t read the book.

The pace bares absolutely zero urgency as it creeps forward with little flair. Making matters worse is the characters we are left to observe with such deep concentration are not all that interesting. They are written void of any curious verve, possessing no charm or endearing qualities. The stakes of caring what happens to them is simply non-existent. They have the depth of cardboard cut outs and the cast struggles to make the material jump off of the page.

Relative unknown Jon Bernthal shoulders the show as lead, while Milo Ventimiglia and Edward Burns are given virtually nothing to do. If you’re going to have an unknown lead the show, the ability for the audience to quickly invest needs to come in the writing of the character they are playing. 

The writing for Bernthal’s Joe Teague offers zilch in this regard. Neil McDonough’s William Parker or “boy scout”, as he’s constantly referred to is the least threatening cop portrayed in recent memory.

Major accolades need to be given to Mark Isham’s score which is pleasantly atmospheric and the series’ promotional team. They made it appear way more promising than the actual finished product.

See It or Free It: Free It, if you haven’t made the mistake of tuning in, stay on track and steer clear. For viewers who’ve already turned in, there has already been a time investment into a third of the series. So they’ve already reeled you in, to give the show another chance. By then you’ll have watched two-thirds of the series. Consequently seeing it to its conclusion is a painful inevitably.

[Image by TNT]