God's Pocket

Posted on: 11 August 2014 by Laurence Green

Laurence Green reviews John Slattery's directorial debut : God's Pocket

God's Pocket

Phillip Seymour Hoffman was truly a great actor, a charismatic figure in the tradition of such Hollywood stars as Marlon Brando, James Stewart and Gene Hackman whose sudden death at the end of last year was great loss to the film industry in general. 

Now we have the opportunity of seeing his last movie, namely acclaimed actor John Slattery’s directorial debut, God’s pocket (released nationwide August 8th) based on the novel by award winning author Pete Dexter (the paper boy, Mulholland falls.)

The story is set in the 1970s. In the gritty blue collar neighbourhood of God’s pocket, Mickey Scarpato’s crazy stepson Leon is killed in a construction accident but nobody is sorry to see him gone. Mickey tries to bury the bad news along with the body, hiding it in, of all places, a refrigerated meat van. But when the boy’s mother demands to know the truth and a local reporter starts sniffing around, things go from bad to worse. Mickey finds himself caught in a life – and - death struggle, compounded by a body he can’t bury, a wife he can’t please and a debt he can’t pay.

Described as a “darkly comic crime drama” this is a movie that begins promisingly but seems to get stuck in a groove unable to decide whether to become a wry comedy or a noirish thriller and settling for an unsatisfactory mixture of the two. There are spasmodic bouts of violence but these are handled tongue and cheek. However the film does a solid job of evoking an atmosphere of waste and ugliness as Slattery painted a far from flattering picture of this run down community and it’s sorry inhabitants aided by a narrator who vividly sets the scene for the incidents that follow.

What lifts the films above the level of a ‘B’ movie is Hoffman’s excellent central performance as the hard drinking lowlife Mickey Scarpato, a man involved in various shady deals whom, in other hands, we wouldn’t care a jolt about but whom Hoffman turns into an engaging rather sad individual. It will not be forgotten in the canon of Hoffman’s work. He is supported by an ensemble cast comprising some of independent films’ finest character actors including Richard Jenkins, John Turturro, Eddie Marsan, Christina Hendricks and Caleb Landry Jones.

The film itself was nominated for the grand jury prize at the Sundance film festival 2014.

Laurence Green

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