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Film Review – ‘Mob Land’ is a Dark Look at the Temptation of Crime and the Inevitability of Repercussions

There’s an undeniable allure to what seems like the perfect crime: no one will get hurt and the getaway will be smooth and easy. Yet life so rarely plays out that way, and there’s almost inevitably an unexpected factor that throws things off entirely, leading to an unfortunate casualty or a wrench in the plan that makes a clean escape impossible. Mob Land is a particularly brutal exploration of that idea, as one man is gradually drawn in over his head and quickly comes to regret his path.

Shelby (Shiloh Fernandez) lives a quiet life in a small Southern town, happily married to Caroline (Ashley Benson) and father to a young daughter, Mila (Tia DiMartino). It’s a tight-knit community where family gatherings include both his troublesome brother-in-law Trey (Kevin Dillon) and the local sheriff, Bodie (John Travolta), who run in very different circles.

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Trey’s eagerness to involve Shelby in a smash-and-grab robbery of the local pill mill leads to them both being directly in the crosshairs of a vicious mob enforcer (Stephen Dorff) from New Orleans and Shelby fearing for the livelihood of his family.

Mob Land
Shiloh Fernandez and Kevin Dillon. Courtesy Saban Films

There is a moodiness to Mob Land, which marks the feature debut of writer-director Nicholas Maggio, that, from the start, foreshadows a miserable journey for its protagonist. While things are relatively tranquil and uneventful, there’s a sense of longing for something more, and the chance to gain a tremendous influx of cash without much effort feels like the perfect solution. Yet it introduces an element unimaginable to the ill-fated perpetrators, someone who isn’t willing to listen to reason and takes no pity on someone having a family or likely to be missed by others in their lives.

The poster for Mob Land includes the tagline “Crime. Family.” with an image of Travolta’s Bodie wearing a cowboy hat and defiantly holding a gun. It’s a fitting sentiment for a story where the law and the lawbreakers are so closely intertwined, and where it’s hard to trust anyone since they might be easily swayed by a bribe or persuaded to cooperate out of fear. Bodie believes in what he’s doing, but also knows that there’s not a high bar for someone to end up committing a crime, and his job is to ensure that they’re brought to justice, whatever that may mean.

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Mob Land
Stephen Dorff and Shiloh Fernandez. Courtesy Saban Films

Fernandez is an effective lead for this story, capturing the sense of being trapped in a situation that could surely have been avoided had he taken a moment to process the potential consequences and how they most certainly outweighed the expected benefits. Dillon’s Trey is hard to like, but it’s understandable how Shelby falls victim to peer pressure and him spinning his proposition as something that couldn’t possibly go wrong.

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Travolta dons a heavy accent and immerses himself in the role, and Dorff manages to be truly chilling in his portrayal of someone who doesn’t seem to question the brutal orders he receives from his bosses.

Mob Land doesn’t pretend to be an uplifting story where the good guys win, and instead leans into the vicious cycles that often overtake areas where poverty and lawlessness reign. Its disturbing nature makes it difficult to endure, but its construction offers a worthwhile, if certainly unpleasant, look at a segment of society where doing anything to get ahead feels like the right choice and what morality looks like among those who don’t care about respecting the rule of law. David Gerald Steinberg’s score is an effective anchor to guide its grim story, a haunting cautionary tale about the impact of actions and not understanding the players involved.

Grade: B-

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

Mob Land will be available in theaters, on demand, and on digital Friday, August 25th.

Abe Friedtanzer
Abe Friedtanzerhttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
Abe Friedtanzer is a film and TV enthusiast who spent most of the past fifteen years in New York City. He has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them. He has attended numerous film festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW, and is a contributing writer for The Film Experience, Awards Radar, and AwardsWatch.

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