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God’s Pocket Review

God's Pocket

Director: John Slattery

Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins, Caleb Landry Jones, Domenick Lombardozzi, Eddie Marsan

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 88 minutes

Synopsis: In a small community known as God’s Pocket, a young racist (Jones) is murdered by a man he’s been targeting. The murder is covered up, but the boy’s mother (Hendricks) suspects something while the stepfather (Hoffman) tries to pay for and organise the funeral arrangements.

GOD’S POCKET is notable for being the directorial debut of Mad Men’s John Slattery, as well as being the last lead performance from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. No surprise then that the film is surrounding by an air of expectation which in many respects is unfair. The film obviously never intended to have such a notable presence, and so assumptions may impact the enjoyment of this wonderfully dark and twisted tale.

The film takes place in a working class town where the most unforgivable sin is not being from there. Slattery paints his town well, where every brushstroke informs us more of the kind of place we are in. It’s a town where the voluptuous Hendricks is married to the portly Hoffman, where Jenkins’ drink heavy journalist, who writes the same piece year after year, is seen as a celebrity, and a town where criminals target trucks of meat to sell to local establishments. However, it’s also a town filled with dedication and unity, as seen after Jones’ racist braggart has his head caved in after threatening an elderly black man at work. The rest of the construction crew decide to lie about the events which splits the film into two separate directions.

On one hand, we have a delightful romp with Hoffman’s unlucky criminal in which he must raise enough money for the funeral of his stepson. Meanwhile, Hendricks entices Jenkins into discovering the truth behind her son’s death, in what is more of a tense mystery for the characters if not the audience. These individual strands don’t always merge quite as well as one would hope, but it does result in a truly unpredictable film where shocks are followed by nervous laughter. Slattery plays on preconceptions well, offering us situations which have been explored in previous films before taking them in a different direction.

The entire cast are wonderfully understated for the most part. Hoffman carries off being a low-level criminal rather well, but still has a lot of strength. Being an outsider to God’s Pocket, we get to see his reactions to this strange place he calls home. Hendricks is also magnificent as a radiant beauty who has a hypnotic effect over all the men she meets. Whenever Hoffman walks in on her and another male character having a conversation, the men always seem to look guilty for merely engaging in conversation with her. Most interesting of all though are the side characters who litter the frames, often in the background.

With a constant feel and look of setting suns, the film emanates a warm orange glow that contrasts well with the darker aspects of the plot. The 3 days over which the film take place also allow for a fast pace that perfectly captures the bizarre nature of such goings on in a small town.

GOD’S POCKET is an admirable first effort, and one that may very well grow over future viewings. But, it is certainly uneven in parts, and with such a sudden ending it results in a less than satisfying ending. With so much to enjoy and strong performances, GOD’S POCKET is more of a promise of things to come rather than a disappointment.

[usr=3] GOD’S POCKET is in cinemas 8th August

Luke likes many things, films and penguins being among them. He's loved films since the age of 9, when STARGATE and BATMAN FOREVER changed the landscape of modern cinema as we know it. His love of film extends to all aspects of his life, with trips abroad being planned around film locations and only buying products featured in Will Smith movies. His favourite films include SEVEN SAMURAI, PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, IN BRUGES, LONE STAR, GODZILLA, and a thousand others.

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