Judge P.S. Colbert would be a top-earning Capo today, if only he hadn't failed the medical exam.
"Be Careful Who You Owe"
High concept meets low-brow in The Mob Doctor: The Complete Series, thirteen episodes of shark-jumping so elaborately staged and sumptuously photographed that it could qualify as an Olympic event. In Hell.
Facts of the Case
Meet Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro, Trespass), young and energetic (not to mention extremely photogenic), a life-long south side Chicagoan, and a brilliant surgeon, currently serving a residency at Roosevelt Medical Center. Grace also works "off the grid" (in other words, unpaid) for notoriously short-fused mob boss Paul Moretti (Michael Rapaport, True Romance) in order to forgive her knuckle-headed younger brother Nate's (Jesse Lee Soffer, In Time) debt, which would otherwise be payable with his life.
Grace's moonlighting activities are usually limited to the mundane (i.e. removing a Philips screwdriver lodged in the right temple of a gangster flunky), but when Moretti wants Grace to make sure a federal witness for the prosecution perishes on the operating table, she balks, and puts her own life on the line. Fortunately, she's been making routine house calls to treat a diabetic named Constantine Alexander (William Forsythe, Raising Arizona) who just happens to be the biggest boss ol' Windy has seen since the days of Capone. Alexander (Tino to his friends) has always had a paternal soft spot for Grace, and he agrees to take her under his protection, thus ensuring that Moretti will no longer be her problem.
There is one thing: Grace's debt to Moretti now automatically transfers to Tino, who, paternal feelings aside, fully intends to use her medical services to his advantage—business being business, and all.
Ready for the pitch? Here comes the wind-up:
Too clever by half, and too imbecilic by another, The Mob Doctor might've actually worked as an SNL sketch, because the longer it goes, the more ridiculous it becomes. While it's reasonable to assume that mobsters might have a need for medical assistance on the QT, wouldn't it make more sense to scout out a sawbones with his own practice—maybe in an office on the outskirts of town, so as to attract less attention going in and out? Instead, these criminal geniuses have tapped a relative newbie (still working under constant supervision) on staff at one of the busiest hospitals in Chicago!
How busy? When kewpie-cute Grace reckons she's finally got a spare moment to engage in some flirtatious badinage with hunky fellow resident Brett Robinson (Zach Gilford, Friday Night Lights), the Emergency Room door bursts open and in staggers a young bride, bleeding profusely from her eyes all over a once gorgeous white wedding gown. Everybody's wondering when Grace and Brett will tie a knot of their own, but who's got time? In just thirteen episodes—aside from dealing with the repercussions of various beat down and bullet-hole victims—Grace performs brain surgery, a heart transplant, turns a breach baby around while it's still in the mother's belly, and even manages to pull a bullet out of her own leg, using an old pair of pliers sterilized with gasoline.
Note: add "meets MacGyver" to the pitch. And what about that name Grace Devlin? Could it possibly symbolize the character's duality?
It all may sound pretty gruesome, but aesthetically, The Mob Doctor goes from the ridiculous to the sublime. No doubt, these are about the cleanest, shiniest seedy hangouts and surgical theaters you'll ever see, and the production value doesn't stop there. The show features suspenseful direction, and—almost in defiance of its ludicrous premise—some pretty sharp writing, not to mention a raft of regular and guest actors working well above their pay grade; including Jennifer Beals (The L Word), Michael Madsen (Kill Bill), Shirley Knight (As Good As It Gets), Terry Kinney (Oz), Zeljko Ivanek (The Bourne Legacy), and of course Forsythe and Rapaport, two performers always worth the price of admission.
Sony's 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen presentation doesn't skimp a bit; everything looks picture perfect, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track holds up its end of the bargain. Surprisingly, no extras come with the set, but perhaps this keeps it reasonably priced. There are two English subtitle options, including one with SDH closed-captioning.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
All this evident acting, writing and directing talent—if only they could have used it for good.
I'll admit I sped through this short-run series, always eager to see what came next, at the same time feeling guilty as one would after consuming an entire cheese-in-the-crust deep dish pizza with extra pepperoni. This is well-made junk, to be sure, but having gotten through it, I'm almost positive I'll never feel the need to rewatch a second of it. Unless you're obsessed with Jordana Spiro (and frankly, who could blame you?!), you can most likely find better ways to waste your time and money.
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