In the fall of 1931, Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano and the heads of every major crime syndicate in America met in Chicago to take crime to the next level – to treat it as a business – with a corporate structure based loosely on the crime families of Sicily only without a boss of bosses.
AMC’s The Making of the Mob (AMC, Mondays, 10/9C) begins with that scene and then goes back to Luciano’s arrival in America in 1906 and his accumulation of friends – Meyer Lansky, Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, Vito Genovese, and Frank Costello – who would become his gang and the primary moving force that would lead to that 1931 meeting.
The Making of the Mob is a docudrama – a cast of superb, but mostly unknown, actors re-enact the events that lead to the formalization of the American Mafia. Integrated into the storytelling is an array of archival footage and photos plus the usual expert moving heads, but the primary thrust of the storytelling is via the re-enactments.
The series begins with Lucky – the story of Luciano’s (Rich Graff) rise to prominence through a mix of intelligence, toughness and making the right kind of friends to succeed. Lansky (Ian Bell) is something of an organizational and mathematical wizard; Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel (Jonathan C. Stewart) is suave and charming but with a hair trigger temper.
They move rapidly from just a neighborhood gang to working for bigger crews – adding Vito Genovese (Craig Rivela), a brutal enforcer, and Frank Costello (Anthony Dicarlo), a man with connections – to their number, before coming to work for Joe ‘The Boss’ Maseria (Stelio Savante) via a truly bizarre and misguided series of events.
Eventually, Luciano makes the acquaintance of Arnold Rothstein (Hugh Scully), who is the most respected gangster in New York – and someone who shares his vision of making crime a business with him.
The Making of the Mob is extremely well made – the dramatic presentation is engrossing; the cast is so appropriate that they draw us into the story to the point that breaks for expert opinions and archival footage never take us out of the ongoing story. It certainly helps that the series is narrated by Ray Liotta (Goodfellas).
Interviews with the likes of ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, actors Joe Mantegna and Chazz Palminteri, Frankie Valli (yes, that Frankie Valli), historian David Pietrusza and Mob attorney and former Las Vegas attorney Oscar Goodman add another dimension to the story.
It took a host of writers – thirteen, actually – to handle the arcs and research and they have definitely gotten the result they desired. Director John Ealer does a fine job of integrating interviews and archival material into the flow of the story and elicits some great performances from his cast.
The two episodes made available for critics – Lucky and Equal Opportunity Gangster – are fascinating and well worth watching. If the series’ remaining six episodes are of the same quality, they will be well worth watching.
Final Grade: A