The spirits of Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and every other dime-store detective hover over the new thriller “Mob City,” blowing smoke and spit into an instantly addictive miniseries, premiering Wednesday, that will have even clean-cut teetotalers pining for a shot of whiskey.
Jon Bernthal (“The Walking Dead”) plays Joe Teague, a Los Angeles police officer in 1947 who is set to make a quick buck after being recruited by a nightclub comedian (Simon Pegg) to help blackmail some mobsters. And not just any mobsters. Bugsy Siegel, Mickey Cohen and Meyer Lansky are among the ruthless gangsters who don’t think the comic’s plan is a laughing matter.
The plan quickly unravels, capturing the attention of Police Chief William Parker (Neal McDonough), a cop so clean he makes Eliot Ness look like “NYPD Blue’s” Andy Sipowicz.
Whose side is Teague on? The cops? The crooks? Or is he just out for himself? The slow, surprising revelation of the character is at the heart of the story, with plenty of classic film-noir elements in play: smoky back rooms, gray hats tipped to the side, constant jazz music, world-weary narration and throaty women who make ordering a cup of coffee sound like a seduction.
The six-part project will air in two-hour blocks over the next three Wednesdays, starting at 8 p.m.
Creator Frank Darabont, who so masterfully directed “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile,” once again has created an authentic mood, shooting almost every scene at night with puddle-filled streets, flashing neon lights and ambiguous characters that can’t be trusted.
It’s unfortunate that Darabont is no longer running AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (he oversaw the first season), but his firing provided an opportunity to get behind another compelling drama, one populated by different kinds of zombies, doomed to sleepwalk through 1940s L.A., just waiting for the kiss of death.