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Ambitious ‘Mob City’ finds TNT outside its comfort zone

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Shane? You’re alive? Oh wait, that’s Jon Bernthal in TNT’s Mob City.

Two and a half stars

Mob City Wednesdays, 9 p.m., TNT.

Although TNT has lately branched out into serialized sci-fi (Falling Skies) and nighttime soap opera (Dallas), the channel still isn’t known for ambition in its original programming, instead relying mostly on dependable procedurals like Major Crimes and Rizzoli & Isles. So the serious period drama Mob City is a bit of a departure, an attempt to capture a more sophisticated audience that typically watches HBO or AMC. Created by filmmaker Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), who also developed The Walking Dead for TV, Mob City stars Walking Dead alum Jon Bernthal as a crooked cop in 1940s Los Angeles.

With its self-consciously hard-boiled dialogue and smoky jazz score, Mob City lives up to the title of its source material, the nonfiction book L.A. Noir, but its mix of historical figures (including Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen) and fictional characters doesn’t approach the level of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. At best, it’s a fun pastiche of film noir, but at worst, it comes off like awkward playacting, with the stars struggling to convincingly deliver their overwrought lines, and dodgy special effects failing to effectively recreate the period locations. TNT might be better off sticking with procedurals.

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