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.
Set 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.
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 a 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.