Mob Land Review – a gritty and arresting Dixie mafioso tale

By Marc Miller
Published: August 7, 2023 (Last updated: August 9, 2023)
2023 movie Mob Land review


Mob Land is a Dixie mafioso tale that’s not afraid to wrap its story up with some untidy bows.

Here is our review of the 2023 movie Mob Land, which does not contain significant spoilers.

Everything in the wake of Oppenheimer doesn’t feel worthy when it comes to films nowadays, so much so that we should grade everything after that Christopher Nolan’s modern masterpiece on a curve.

That means a movie like Mob Land shouldn’t stand a chance in a post-Oppenheimer world.

Yet Nicholas Maggio‘s debut feature has such maverick, gritty intensity, arresting visuals, and two veteran post-modern Hollywood stars reveling in their roles, that I found myself caught off guard by his crime film.

It’s not a masterpiece because most films never reach that level of greatness, but it’s damn effective. A Dixie mafioso tale that’s not afraid to wrap its story up with some untidy bows.

Mob Land (2023) Review and Plot Summary

The film uses the backdrop of Alabama, the Heart of Dixie Country, to tell a tale of addiction and the American dream. Let’s meet Shelby Conners (Shiloh Fernandez), an out-of-luck construction worker and drag racer who needs steady cash.

Many of his friends of the same age keep dying from opioid addiction. So, why not perform community service in the area?

At least, that’s what his brother Trey (Kevin Dillon) tells him. Trey suggests robbing a local physician handing out OxyContin scripts like candy. Consequently, the addicts return their cuts to the office for selling.

Little did they know that the New Orleans mafia runs the operation.

When things go bad, bullets are fired, blood is shed, and a local sheriff named Bodie David (John Travolta) with an ominous medical diagnosis is on the case. The situation worsens for Shelby and Trey.

That’s because the mafia’s enforcer, Clayton Minor (a menacingly entertaining Stephen Dorff), arrives in town, searching for the robbers, the money, and the pills taken from their property.

Originally titled American Metal, Maggio wrote the script while working with a story from Rob Healy. Mob Land is a gripping crime film.

There is a method to Maggio’s style; while some may find it grating, the quick and choppy cuts are intentional, allowing Nick Matthews’s cinematography an unvarnished feel, full of blemishes, similar to the characters the story follows.

Mob Land is Dorff and Travolta’s best film in over a decade. Travolta is remarkably restrained here, complementing the film with Dorff’s performance, who completely revels in the role.

They hardly have any screen time together; both characters revolve around Fernandez’s Shelby, but they make for an interesting polar opposite as the story progresses.

Getting back to Dorff, he’s so damn entertaining here. From his relentless boundary-breaking conversations with strangers to his stoic intensity that switches to manic like a switchblade, you cannot take your eyes off him.

Even in the most serene moments, Dorff delivers the line, “Driving is easy; not getting a chance to say goodbye is hard,” which leaves a mark more than most.

While I’m sure many will dismiss Mob Land’s story as a by-the-numbers crime picture, I assure you it’s not.

Yes, crimes are committed, and bullets fly, but Maggio’s script takes some real chances with plot devices and choices. Dorff starts as a secondary character but slowly graduates to the lead, showing what the story is really about, all while the characters make unexpected choices.

Is Mob Land good or bad?

Mob Land is a good crime film. Despite the distracting juxtaposition of Fernandez and Dorff, which sometimes lacks vitality, the film works as a small-town crime thriller.

Maggio’s film is visually captivating and takes chances with engrossing storytelling.

Is Mob Land worth watching?

Mob Land is worth watching for the over-the-top but completely satisfying turn by Stephen Dorff.

Whatever you think of the film’s manic mood, his entertaining turn carries the viewer through the crime picture. This is Dorff’s best performance in years.

What did you think of the 2023 movie Mob Land? Comment below.

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