Friday , July 19 2024

Blu-ray Review: ‘Mob Land’ Featuring John Travolta

For whatever reasons, John Travolta has chosen to bide much of his late-career time phoning in performances for often-generic, direct-to-video fare. The latest is the unimaginatively titled Mob Land, written and directed by Nicholas Maggio.

To be fair, Maggio brings a certain sense of gravitas to this weathered tale of drug addiction, chronic illness, and organized crime. Travolta plays a down-on-his-luck sheriff, Bodie Davis. While it’s a supporting role, the presence of a bona fide cinematic icon is the primary draw for curious viewers who might otherwise pass this one up. It’s kind of odd that an A-lister like Travolta keeps turning up in decidedly B-movie material, but fans will likely feel the need to check it out.

With its promo image boasting a prominent image of Travolta’s Sheriff Davis in a cowboy hat, at first glance one would be forgiven for mistaking Mob Land for a traditional Western. Make no mistake, this is modern-day, contemporary America. The film’s unfortunately derivative title recalls Cop Land (1997). There was also a recent David Arquette picture called Mob Town (2019). The point is, right off the bat, the producers are practically daring audiences to overlook their film. Its original title was American Metal. I’m not sure that’s more appropriate, but it does seem at least more attention-grabbing.

A Stab at Relevance

The story centers on laborer Shelby Conners (Shiloh Fernandez), who is financially challenged and struggling with opioid addiction. His brother Trey (Kevin Dillon) hatches a scheme to rob a local doctor’s office. In Trey’s view, the medical industry is beneath contempt. His justification for the heist is that the town’s opioid problem stems from Oxycontin prescriptions being handed out like candy.

Shelby is skeptical about their chances for success but agrees to participate. The real trouble begins when the New Orleans mafia, which controls the clinic they rob, sends Clayton Minor (Stephen Dorff) to exact retribution on the Conners brothers.

Writer-director Nicholas Maggio effectively sets up a believable ambiance throughout Mob Land. There’s certainly a stab being taken at telling a story of significance and relevance (namely, the nation’s ongoing epidemic of prescription drug addiction and abuse). The unfortunate part is that his storytelling is convoluted and there are arguably too many characters to keep straight. There’s an appealing layer of authentic grit coating Mob Land, but the story doesn’t quite land with the authority it needs to.

Lionsgate Films’ Mob Land Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD combo pack includes a director’s commentary featuring Maggio joined by star Shiloh Fernandez and cinematographer Nick Matthews. There’s also a featurette, “Walking the Line: The Characters of Mob Land,” helpful to watch in advance of the film to become familiar with the menagerie of characters.

About The Other Chad

An old co-worker of mine thought my name was Chad. Since we had two Chads working there at the time, I was "The Other Chad."

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