Frank Darabont turned his love of old horror films into the hugely successful zombie thriller "The Walking Dead" before parting ways with AMC. In "Mob City" (8 p.m. CST Dec. 4, TNT; 1.5 stars out of 4) he shares his enthusiasm for film noir, but with dramatically different and disappointing results.
Basing his story loosely on the nonfiction book "LA Noir: The Struggle for America's Most Seductive City" by John Buntin, Darabont religiously follows the boilerplate of the great noir films of the '30s and '40s: square-jawed men, hard-boiled dames, dark shadows and murky morals.
Unfortunately that murkiness clouds nearly every aspect of "Mob City." In its first two episodes, "Mob City" trudges through so many noir cliches it's almost a parody of the genre. They create confusion rather than mystery and delay answers to the point of exhausting viewer patience.
Set in 1947, the story centers on L.A. Police Det. Joe Teague ("Walking Dead" alum Jon Bernthal), who is called upon to be part of an elite police squad led by ambitious chief-to-be William Parker (Neal McDonough) to take down mobsters like Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke), Bugsy Siegel (Ed Burns), mob lawyer Ned Stax (Milo Ventimiglia) and enforcer Sid Rothman (Robert Knepper).
At the same time Teague is mysteriously led into a plot by local comedian Hecky Nash (Simon Pegg) to blackmail a mobster. Keeping his fellow officers far enough away to not know what is happening, Teague serves as Nash's muscle when the comic meets the mobsters to get his cash.
To say anymore would spoil one of the few actually tense moments in the first night, so I'll just add that eventually Teague crosses paths with an old Marine buddy and the miniseries' femme fatale, Jasmine Fontaine (Alexa Davalos), who is hostess at Cohen's Clover Club.
Teague's relationships shake up the proceedings a bit, but they come so late viewers may have tuned out. Darabont relies too heavily on the noir device of having a character narrate the proceedings. Add rather expository scenes to all that voice-over and you get a lot of talk without much action.
As an exercise in recreating a noir drama, "Mob City" has all the trappings we've seen better in "L.A. Confidential" and other projects, but little of the thrill. To put it as bluntly as one of Darabont's characters might, "Mob City" is boring.
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