John Travolta’s streak of ropey cinematic output continues with Mob Land, a crime thriller set in America’s South. Down on his luck in a crumbling small town, family man Shelby (Shiloh Fernandez) is talked into robbing a pharmacy by his brother (Kevin Dillon).
The seemingly straight forward job goes awry, and soon Shelby finds himself in the crosshairs of a mafia enforcer (Stephen Dorff). Debutant director Nicholas Maggio does a solid job of setting the scene, creating a town that is slowly dying thanks to a drug epidemic that has robbed it of all but it’s most grizzled residents. However, when the time comes to go deeper, both his direction and script come up short.
The shaky camera work and quick editing are needless, while the script takes a little too much inspiration from crime thrillers of the past. Killing Them Softly, Collateral, and numerous Coen Brothers films are all recognisable from the early moments.
Travolta’s scenes are few and far between. It’s the kind of prestige supporting role that you imagine pays well and doesn’t demand too many shooting days. Still, he brings some presence to an otherwise B Movie cast. Stephen Dorff does a below-par impression of Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men, philosophically toying with his targets before a burst of violence. He has neither the intensity or acting chops to make it work, and while there are moments of peril, he’s not the menace this film needs.
A facsimile of much better movies, Mob Land has an idea of the type of story it wants to tell but not the tools to execute it.