Combustible Celluloid
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With: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins, John Turturro, Eddie Marsan, Caleb Landry Jones, Domenick Lombardozzi, Glenn Fleshler, Molly Price, Bridget Barkan, Arthur French, Joyce Van Patten, Peter Gerety
Written by: Alex Metcalf, John Slattery, based on the novel by Peter Dexter
Directed by: John Slattery
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language throughout and sexual content
Running Time: 88
Date: 05/09/2014

God's Pocket (2014)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Picked 'Pocket'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Actor John Slattery, of TV's "Mad Men," began his directorial career with several episodes of that hit show, but his skills don't seem to translate to the big screen. Adapting and directing Pete Dexter's 1983 novel God's Pocket, Slattery makes a movie that seems to cry out for some kind of black humor. After all, it has a dead body bouncing around in a truck for half of its running time. And yet it's played straight, as a grim, washed-out, hopeless drama.

In the working-class neighborhood of God's Pocket in South Philadelphia, a young man (Caleb Landry Jones) is killed on a construction job. His mother Jeanie (Christina Hendricks) is distraught and his stepfather Mickey Scarpato (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) begins to try and raise the money for his funeral. He tries to sell meat from a stolen refrigerator truck and loses money on a sure-fire horse. The undertaker (Eddie Marsan) tosses the body in an alley when he realizes that Mickey doesn't have the cash. Meanwhile, a drunken newspaper columnist (Richard Jenkins) has been assigned to find out how the young man was killed and attempts to seduce Jeanie. Will everyone survive until the funeral?

Where the movie goes right is in its casting. The late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a powerful, pained performance in one of his final movies. Richard Jenkins is also interesting as the writer whose "common people" newspaper columns are adored. Additionally, Christina Hendricks, Eddie Marsan, and John Turturro add some color, and a few moments spring to life, but their characters are mostly under-explored. We leave knowing less than we might expect, but -- given the depressing tone -- more than we probably want to.

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