Nicholas Maggio’s directorial debut, “Mob Land,” is a gripping crime thriller set in the heart of small-town Alabama. While Maggio acknowledges Tarantino’s influence, it’s clear that the film draws much of its inspiration from the Coen brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men.” In this atmospheric tale, a seen-it-all sheriff and a sinister, lizard-eyed killer descend upon the quiet town, unsettling gas station attendants with their intrusive inquiries into their private lives.
John Travolta delivers a compelling performance as Sheriff Davis, a man on the brink of retirement who’s trying to avoid dwelling on the grim diagnosis he’s received from his doctor. He takes a keen interest in Shelby (Shiloh Fernandez), a young mechanic struggling to provide for his wife and daughter by souping up muscle cars and participating in street races. However, Shelby becomes unwittingly entangled in a harebrained criminal scheme concocted by his greedy and reckless uncle Trey (Kevin Dillon), who enlists Shelby as the getaway driver for a heist on an illegal opioid pill mill, believing it’s an easy path to a big payday.
As expected, the robbery descends into a gruesome debacle, with Shelby thrust into violence far more directly than he ever anticipated. This catastrophe attracts the attention of a sinister mob enforcer, Clayton (played with relish by Stephen Dorff), who is determined to retrieve the stolen money and make an example of the audacious locals who dared to pilfer gangster funds. While it would have been nice to see Travolta’s character involved in more investigative work and engaged in more captivating dialogues, a significant portion of these engaging exchanges is allocated to Dorff’s creepy hitman as he recruits Shelby as his assistant for the gruesome murders that must now take place. The film manages to maintain its cohesion, and the final shot provides a satisfying conclusion to this blood-soaked narrative.
“Mob Land” is set to premiere in UK cinemas on August 25th and will be available on altitude.film, with an Australian release date yet to be confirmed.