Plot: What’s it about?
Crime doesn’t pay. That is a key factor at the heart of Mob Land. A new, smaller scale film that, if one is patient with, will really sneak up on you. It may be easy at first to dismiss this film as it starts off rather slowly, but if you give it a chance, it will just work its way on you. It certainly got better as it went along and began to involve me more. Ultimately, it is better than a lot of films in this genre and deserves to be seen with few caveats.
Set in Mississippi (also my home state) we are introduced to Shelby (Shiloh Fernandez) who is a race car driver but also struggles to make ends meet. While we don’t learn many details at first, we see that he struggles with a medical condition. While times are hard, there just may be a ray of hope. This is where Trey (Kevin Dillon) enters. He is Shelby’s brother-in-law, and he advises a plan to rob a local shop that specializes in selling illegal pills. By the time the robbery occurs, it’s a sequence filled with serious tension. This is only aided by the fact that these two men are in a small town, and while masked, it makes it even more suspenseful because they might be recognized. I won’t reveal too much of this sequence, but Sheriff Bodie (John Travolta, sporting a shaved mane) is on the case. The sheriff is also Shelby’s uncle, so this doesn’t help matters. Nor does the fact that Bodie has just received some disturbing health news. Perhaps the most interesting character here is that of Clayton, played by Stephen Dorff. He is brought in to deal with the robbery of the store, and he certainly follows his own code. He is the sort of character who would be right at home in a Coen Brothers flick or even Tarantino with his calculated look and the exchanges he has with local servers or his next victim. Things build to something of a bleak climax, but we know this story won’t have the happiest of endings. While I feel the ending isn’t perfect, these are characters who chose to rob from people they shouldn’t have and locals in a small town where it isn’t hard to pick out suspects.
Mob Land isn’t perfect, however. I felt the film got better as it went along, but the pacing, especially in the first half, could’ve been tightened. I do anticipate a second viewing as I have a better idea of where the story will lead. The film certainly wants us to get to know its characters, but I feel it could’ve been handled more effectively in the earlier scenes. There were times where I was unsure just what kind of film I was watching or what it was supposed to be about. Rest assured, the pieces begin to fit more snugly, and this turns into a satisfying journey.
Video: How’s it look?
With a wide 2.39:1 transfer and this being a recent film, I only expected great results here. And indeed, I got them. The disc offers a very pleasing image with little to no obvious flaws. I must assume this was shot digitally and it looks very clean and polished, while still maintaining the proper look of the film. Viewers should feel pleased with the results here.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD track is also a good one. The vocals are fine and easy to understand, but the film has several action moments where the track really comes to life. It kept me involved constantly during it and made for an engaging soundtrack.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A couple things to note here. This is a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, but it is housed in a DVD case. I know this may throw some off and bother some, but I did want to mention it. Also worth noting is that the behind the scenes on this disc urges viewers to watch after they’ve viewed the film as it contains spoilers.
- Audio Commentary – Writer-Director Nicholas Maggio, Actor Shiloh Fernandez and Cinematographer Nick Matthews provide an engaging commentary track. I knew from the featurette on the disc that they would have a lot to say and indeed they do. Not a stone is unturned here as various topics are covered.
- Walking the Line: The Characters of Mob Land – In an above average behind the scenes, this one dives into the characters and what the filmmakers hoped to achieve with the film. There is talk of wanting to have empathy towards all the characters as well as various other topics, including several plot points. We get a spoiler warning before this starts and it’s well advised to view it after having seen the film.
The Bottom Line
Give this one a chance. It isn’t a masterpiece, but it sticks with you. Whether you’re able to see it theatrically, or decide to stream it later, it’s worth a watch. With tighter editing and perhaps a more experienced director, it might’ve been a home run, but as it stands, it is still worth seeing. All the way up to the final shot.