God’s Pocket

Year: 2014
Production Co: Park Pictures
Director: John Slattery
Writer: Alex Metcalf/John Slattery
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins, Caleb Landry Jones, Eddie Marsan

Where this film's coming from and where it goes is impossible to ascertain, and that accounts for the creative failure at the heart of it. In just one example, Caleb Landry Jones's character – a brash and bigoted young construction worker – makes it feel like the most dour, grimy, street-level family drama, but when his dead body is later stuffed into the back of a meat truck so his grifter stepfather Mickey (Philip Seymour Hoffman) can sell the wares inside, it turns into high comedy.

Mickey works with 'Bird' (John Turturro) as a robber and fencer of goods in a forgotten urban corner of late 1970s Philadelphia that gives the movie its title. They rob trucks and pull scams to try to make a living, and all Mickey wants is to enjoy life with his pretty wife Jeanie (Christina Hendricks).

But Jeanie's errant son Leon (Jones) – whom she thinks is an angel – throws everyone's life into disarray when his abusive, offensive behaviour at work goes too far and gets him killed.

As Mickey tries to deal with the fallout and give Leon the burial his mother wants, he gets further into debt with the wrong people trying to get his life together, and all the while an alcoholic, washed-up newspaper columnist (Richard Jenkins) watches over and narrates the events in God's Pocket, including getting way too close to Jeanie in the process.

For a cast of such strong actors, there's frustratingly little to hold onto here. The goings-on are too nasty for even dark comedy, the characters too miserable and opportunistic for redemption and the whole thing falls in a nihilistic heap. It's a very inauspicious end to a stellar career for Hoffman.

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