Shelby Conners & Clayton Minor In ‘Mob Land,’ Explained

The new movie Mob Land, directed by Nicholas Maggio, is a crime drama that boasts of being a gritty piece of cinema but is actually a long-drawn cliche, with only a few moments that actually feel alive. Crime dramas are usually an engaging affair, but Mob Land proves that if a certain style or a stereotypical mood is given priority against the flow of the story, it will seldom work. The story revolves around Shelby Conners, who, after losing his job, agrees to his brother-in-law’s plan to rob a clinic dealing in drug money. The heist goes bad, and a hitman gets on their tail.

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The characters in Mob Land are part of a philosophical debate about whether life in a small town is more meaningful or if the roller coaster ride of the big cities is the pathway to a purposeful life. The answers are given to us after a long, dragging session of gruesome violence, whose brutality only pushes us away from the film. The hitman named Clayton and the small-town family man named Shelby are two interesting characters that should have been explored in much more creative ways. Let’s take a look at both of them:

Spoilers Ahead

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Shiloh Fernandez As Shelby Conners:

Shelby Conners was living his life peacefully, even if he had a fair share of responsibility on his hands and his physical condition was worsening. With an emergent case of Parkinson’s, Shelby wanted to provide for his wife and his daughter, but how could he have told them that he had just lost his job? The only way out of the mess seemed to come from his brother-in-law, Trey. The heist wasn’t going to be difficult, according to Trey. Shelby should’ve continued on his righteous path, even if it meant not being able to provide for his family for a few days. The town was full of people who would have helped. Even his last job he got was due to the courtesy of a friend, and the town sheriff, Bodie, was also a good man who would’ve offered his help.

Perhaps Shelby didn’t want their help. He didn’t want to ask anyone, and he risked being seen as an irresponsible father. He was a racecar driver as well, but there wasn’t any money in that department. So when Trey came up with this plan on the pretext that the clinic was selling ‘oxy’ pills to the public and the money was being funneled to hotshots sitting in big cities, Shelby wasn’t really inclined to agree. It was losing the job that actually pushed him to join Trey. He agreed to be a part of this dangerous plan, and it turned out that Trey had been working with the ‘oxy’ gang. That’s how he knew where the money was and how there would be low security, such that Shelby and he would rob the place easily. A man was killed, and another ended up getting shot. The money was in their hands.

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What good is this money for Shelby now? He had given up his innocence for this money. The meaning coming from the grueling small-town life had evaporated with this act of violence. Should he go to the police? He must have thought so. But what about Mila, his lovely daughter? If Shelby had known that the money was going to bring evil chaos into his life, he never would have taken it. Trey asked him to hide the money, but it was not going to ensure Trey survived. Clayton had come to Dixie to sort things out. Bodie, who was investigating the robbery, started to see the town change. It was as if the old days were back when wickedness was all around. People were being found dead. The doctor who worked with these drug mobsters and the receptionist, who was also a witness to the operation, ended up dead. Bodie suspected Trey to be connected to the events, but he couldn’t even find him.

During all of these events, Shelby was like a completely powerless man, being crushed slowly by Clayton. He had gotten to him. Shelby thought for a moment that if he did everything Clayton asked him to, he would neither kill him nor harm his family. But that wasn’t possible. He ended up dead, as he couldn’t really accept that everything was a consequence of his actions. He chose to go with Trey, chose not to go to Bodie immediately, and hid the money. Maybe in another world, he would have lived where philosophical ramblings about why certain people do certain things were enough to change the minds of professional hitmen. Although his death really had an effect on Clayton.

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Stephen Dorff As Clayton Minor:

Clayton looked as if he had come from another era. A sociopathic man who did not hesitate to murder people in an acutely disturbing fashion. Wearing a leather jacket and asking extremely personal questions to Dixie’s residents made him seem completely out of touch with reality. He once told Shelby that his father had killed himself after murdering his mother, but that doesn’t necessarily explain how Clayton became the man he is today. He wasn’t as cool as he thought. He just had no inhibitions when it came to killing a man. His moral high ground came from the fact that he didn’t kill anyone that he knew was innocent. He told Shelby that he wouldn’t have killed him if he hadn’t smothered the old receptionist, who was likely to have testified and given away Clayton’s employer’s name as well. What’s tricky is that Shelby didn’t want to kill the lady. It was Clayton who first knocked her out and then threatened Shelby that if he didn’t kill the woman, Clayton would order the deaths of Shelby’s wife and daughter.

So he basically made a full-fledged murderer out of Shelby. He followed his rule of not killing innocents just technically, and not in spirit, it seems. Maybe he was just addicted to killing people. He killed Trey and also the man handling the money in the clinic, who had recognized Trey from his voice. Shelby made him see the truth that he was hiding under his facade of being a principled killer. He made Clayton see that he looked down upon rural life and saw everything as meaningless, just so that he could keep on killing without a shred of guilt. He would have to repent if he saw that he had always destroyed meaningful things.

When Clayton killed Shelby and got handed over the money by his mob boss, he finally could see perhaps what Shelby was talking about. He killed the whole drug gang in Dixie and left the money that he had received for the hitjob to Shelby’s family. He got shot by Sheriff Bodie right after he had done a good deed for a long time. He didn’t fear death anyway, and it was good that he helped a family in need. He may have felt the guilt of killing a family man, as he always asked strangers about their families and what their kids were up to. Seeing Shelby’s daughter, Clayton, must have thought leaving the money behind was the only way to feel the kind of meaning Shelby was rambling about just before his death. Clayton was an evil man, but more than that, he was a nihilist who was just drifting in this world on the command of his boss, who didn’t even respect him. Maybe if he had gotten that sense of meaning right in his childhood, he wouldn’t have turned out to be so evil.


Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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