sun 03/03/2024

Mob Land review - familiar pulp fiction | reviews, news & interviews

Mob Land review - familiar pulp fiction

Mob Land review - familiar pulp fiction

Travolta graces a derivative but solid Southern noir

One step behind: John Travolta as Sheriff Bodie Altitude

Optimistically billed as John Travolta’s comeback, writer-director Nicholas Maggio’s debut is an effective Southern noir, with Travolta an authoritative but peripheral presence.

Mob Land is mostly about Shelby Connors (Shiloh Fernandez), a small-town ex-racing driver with Parkinson’s, struggling to make ends meet with his wife Caroline (Ashley Benson) and daughter. Repossession threatens his home, where Caroline’s brother Trey (Kevin Dillon, pictured below left with Fernandez) spends his time, and suggests the bad choice that will send them to hell. A local pharmacy is a Mob front pushing painkillers to the region’s addicts, a soft target surely begging to be knocked over. Shelby’s straight road is leading his family into the financial pit, and he grabs for this risky way out. But the robbery goes bloodily wrong, and the New Orleans Mafia, not after all the enfeebled good ol’ boys Trey hoped, send their sadistic enforcer Clayton Minor (Stephen Dorff) to clean up the mess, with Sheriff Bodie (Travolta) crucial steps behind.Kevin Dillon and Shiloh Fernandez in Mob LandMob Land resembles a solid if derivative crime novel, set in an economically battered community where family ties still bind, but temptation is hard to fight. Of course it’s nothing like as rich as James Lee Burke’s novels, where Detective Dave Robicheaux has fought the Dixie Mob in a swampy, overripe milieu since the Eighties. Sheriff Bodie isn’t big enough for Travolta to try another miraculous Pulp Fiction resurrection. The part’s more like his wooden-legged Marshal in Ti West’s Western In a Valley of Violence (2016), a small role with quirks and colour, benefiting from his residual star aura. Bodie walks awkwardly, masking cancer’s secret pain, and weariness at lesser cops and shady townsfolk. “I will slap you to sleep, and slap you for sleepin’,” he chides his deputy, expecting no better.

In this unusually starry B-movie, Kevin Dillon’s penchant for blustering losers powers Trey, but the film belongs to Fernandez and Dorff (pictured below). The latter’s blandly pretty youth has grown into weathered gravitas. A prologue shows Calvin’s cruel capacity for carnage, drawing obvious comparisons with Javier Bardem’s invincible hunter-killer in No Country for Old Men (2007), and back to Brando’s eccentric bounty hunter in The Missouri Breaks (1976). Though Clayton claims not to harm the innocent, he deepens Shelby’s guilt, dragging him on his executioner’s rounds and further bloodying his hands. There’s something of the Cruise/Foxx dynamic in Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004), as they existentially and even theologically debate their fate. “This ain’t your world, your life,” Clayton sneers. “You don’t control that shit.” “Why are we here?” Shelby plaintively replies, hanging onto faith, in a God seeming faraway or perhaps just his steely, wry wife.Stephen Dorff in Mob LandMaggio and DP Nick Matthews settle down from initial hand-held cameras and green filters, trusting story and characters operating mostly in noir night, small-town neon smudging the dark. Maggio isn’t into Tarantinoesque irony, taking things straight till the already mannered Clayton’s risibly noble final turn. Such crime stories are working-class tales, and Fernandez’s Shelby is Mob Land’s heart, a wounded hero who’s placed his foot in a trap, too ordinary to save anyone: sad, but familiar.

Travolta's part is a small role with quirks and colour, benefiting from his residual star aura

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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