The sad death of Philip Seymour Hoffman last year deprived Hollywood of one of the most robust and powerful actors working in modern cinema. It was roles in two very different kinds of film which quickly made him a firm favourite of mine. In State and Main and The Big Lebowski he demonstrated a comedic flare, but it was films such as Magnolia and Happiness which would guide his later career. Starring roles in The Master and Capote cemented his position on the Hollywood A List and as the leading character actor working in film. In one of his final roles, God’s Pocket, he once again returns to that sad weather-worn demeanour which first caught the eye.
Mickey Scarpato (Hoffman)struggles to keep his head above water through dubious means. When his wife Jeanie’s (Christina Hendricks) son is killed in a purported accident at work, she’s not convinced. Mickey asks his friend Bird (John Turturro) to make enquiries in the neighbourhood for him. At the same time a famous, yet lost, local writer Richard Shellburn (Richard Jenkins) is tasked by his paper to look into the incident. God’s Pocket is a place which looks after its own, and Mickey and Richard are both outsiders.
John Slattery’s directorial debut shows much promise without totally convincing as a crime drama. The emphasis is on the dramatic, and the performances of Hoffman, Jenkins and Turturro add gravitas to the picture; which makes it highly watchable. Unfortunately, the plot is slim and proceedings never really delves below the surface. God’s Pocket is an unusual film in many ways, and Slattery’s choice to focus on the drama and not the violence is commendable. However, on the odd occasion where events erupt, the retribution is swift and brutal.
God’s Pocket is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Arrow Films on January 12.