Bugsy Siegel was a legendary figure while he was still breathing. He made no bones about how he made his bones. People said he had a hair trigger temper and a great sense of humor. Edward Burns shows exactly that in the opening scene of Mob City’s “Red Light,” mining all the giggles he can get out of a broken nose and then breaking it again. Just for a punchline. It’s no wonder the LAPD is having a pissing contest over this guy. The men around him smell nothing but cow shit. He smells the money. Siegel had a vision. He was right, it would take a little patience. The funny thing is, patience his partners had, what they didn’t have in too much abundance was a forgiving nature.
The LAPD’s in the middle of their own turf war. Every cop wants to be the cop that nabs Siegel. The fucking boy scout William H. Parker (Neal McDonough) gets on my tit with his all-American can-do attitude and bright blues. They don’t give Hal Morrison (Jeffrey DeMunn) enough to do. Siegel is just starting what he thinks will be his empire. Las Vegas. The promised land in the middle of the desert. Where gambling’s legal and whores are unionized. That’s firing on double barrels right there, Siegel’s no stranger to labor relations. It’s the private jets that betray him, not the concrete mixers. What better way to bring good relations than Frank Sinatra? The future chairman of the board is a loyal friend. As is George Raft and Sid Rothmen. Siegel can rely on his friends. They all came up together and are all standup guys.
The main case in Mob City is still unfolding. This flashbacks get shorter. 1947 Los Angeles. Just before the action started. This time Mob City flashes to just what was in that bag that Hecky Nash (Simon Pegg) was holding. All we knew was that they were pretty slick pix of Benny Siegel. They really brought out his eyes. What we find out tonight is that they show Siegel in all his Bugsy glory. Doing the job on a rat personally. Sure, it’s suitable for framing, but in this case no frame is necessary. It’s got the goods right there. The cops know that Hecky’s blackmail scheme had to do with glossies and Teague knows that Jasmine Fontaine is better with the lens than your average polaroid tourist. She’s got her own dark room in the bathroom. Too bad Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke) doesn’t know too much about spoiling paper or he’d recognize a red light as something more than a call girl on the clock.
Teague (Jon Bernthal) is a lucky guy. He seems to step in shit quite often. Whether he’s hiding in a closet or on a fire escape, he’s a natural eavesdropper. The audience has finally caught on that his loyalty is neither to mob nor entirely to his brothers in blue. He’d sell them both down the river for Jasmine Fontaine. The ex-wife that he never got out of his system. They couldn’t blow it out of his system at Guadalcanal and it’s not going to take a dive in a street fight. Teague’s not in it for the fame or the glory or the collar, he’s in it to keep his baby safe. Everything else is just going through the motions. Oh, he’s capable doing through the motions. He’s a pro. He deals with cons. He deals tough and straight. When he can get the straight dope. That’s tough when the story unravels in the middle.
I said last week that my favorite character on Mob City is Sid Rothman and I’m sticking to that story. He’s not a specific gangster in history, so he represents all gangsters. Film or history. His in depth knowledge and understanding of the art of comedy was a big grin. Rothman the suspect in a cold blooded killing taunting the cops with musings on Buster Keaton’s physical comedy, Chaplin’s heart, how comedians could make you laugh and bring a tear to your eye on the turn of a dime. A thoughtful critique on Laurel and Hardy as children caught inside adults’ bodies. Clowns? These were artists. It’s also nice to see that Rothmen keeps up with his violin lessons.
The turf war gives the squeeze to Siegel’s operations from three sides as the LAPD is already on his ass twice and he’s got the Italian mobs swooping in to take over operations while Siegel’s cooling his heels in jail. Don’t worry too much about Benny suffering the same indignities as other inmates. When Siegel hit town he hit it big, whether he was staying at the Waldorf or a local precinct. The man knew how to live. He’s not too worried, he’s got his lawyer Ned Stax (Milo Ventimiglio) keeping an eye on Mickey Cohen keeping an eye on his business. Stax is a good man. Smart. Loyal. Always sees the angles and not too bad at making snap decisions even if it’s just good PR. Don’t let the tie fool you. It’s a clip on. A very expensive one. He’s good for a short loan, even if it is just digging the extortion ditch deeper.
“His Banana Majesty” is where we best learn how to pick produce. You really don’t want your bananas too green. By the time they ripen, you’re not in the mood. For love or bananas. When Benny’s away and the goombahs play too many people don’t make payments and that’s just bad for business. People don’t like to gamble when they see what’s being left as collateral damage.
The rat fuck that used to be Mickey Cohen’s best bagman, he didn’t see all that coming? He spent his entire life in that life and is surprised when his bullshit doesn’t fly? And then he fingers the top guys for it? Fuck him that rat piece of shit. And I predict they will. Repeatedly. You see, they’re not going to take down Bugsy Siegel in six episodes. No matter how many different squads are vying for the rights. Cops aren’t going to take down Bugsy at all. New York’s going to take care of that and it’s not for the reasons that every one says it is. Siegel was late with the bages at a meeting with Lucky Luciano. He’s not going to suck in the fetid air of the gas chamber.
Do bullets really make a noise as they enter a body? And can you tell them apart from the gun shot on a merry-go-round? I’ve never actually been close enough to notice. Effects like that cheapen shows for me. It’s like the bullets you see flying through the air that looks like you can move out of their way or the blood on a camera lens when it’s not a documentary. It’s an effect and it is self-important as an effect saying, look at me, I’m an effect, a very special effect. Pay attention to me. An effect shouldn’t call attention to itself and we shouldn’t pay attention to effects. They should be part of the reality of the scene. Now I know I’m punishing Mob City for the sins of other programs that are much worse offenders, but I don’t watch those shows, I watch this one.
While I’m bitching, I don’t understand why TNT’s paid so much to develop and produce these six episodes only to rush them through two a night. I personally like it, but I like movies. I like an immersive film experience, but for the most part, most people want it stretched. TV is about stretching things out. Keeping people talking for weeks at a time at least. Breathe a little. Like wine. Gangsters know how to serve wine, and mob shows know how to mic it. I was complaining about the sound effects in the bullets, but I also have to point to the same detail they give to the pouring of booze. And Rothmen’s food preparations while laying low. Sure, it is a nod to Goodfellas, but more importantly, it’s a nod to the importance of food in mob movies. Food and music are characters in gangster films.
Den of Geek Rating: Red Light 3.5 Out of 5 Stars, His Banana Majesty 4 out of 4 Stars