Novelty ties, continuous jazz, and Simon Pegg playing an American mobster; these are the stand-out features of an otherwise featureless series.
This is season one of Frank Darabont’s ‘Mob City’. As a man who has ‘Shawshank Redemption’, and ‘The Walking Dead’ to his name, one could reasonably assume, or at least hope, that his latest work would be of a similar calibre.
To read about the series is more enjoyable than to watch it; based in 1947 (with frequent trips back to the 1920s for contextual reference), it is an adaptation of John Buntin’s non-fiction account of ‘L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City’. The story features genuine historical figures (Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky) and follows the layers of corruption and morally ambiguous destruction in the city’s puppet masters: the Mob and the L.A.P.D.
We are told, by the unnecessary narrator, that where once the good guys wore the white hats, and the bad guys the black hats, he ‘lives in a world of grey hats’.
The series is monotonous and slow, with paroxysms of shooting and bloody violence. My lack of appreciation will likely be labelled as a misunderstanding of the Noir genre. Perhaps that’s fair; but if this is an exemplar of Noir, it says little for a genre that appears to embrace flaccid story lines, vacuous characters, and almost parodic cliché.
In its favour, it does look good; from the heavy curtain of smoke indoors; to the wet streets outdoors. The shoes, the ties, the cars – they all look good; Jasmine Fonatane (Alexa Davalos) looks particularly good. It’s easy on the eye, and too easy on the mind. The characters are actors in dress-up, evoking no emotional investment and therefore no interest in their mysteries. ‘So damn beautiful. But only from a distance; up close, it’s all gutter’.
Mob City premieres on Fox UK on Friday 17 January at 10pm