God's Pocket, film review: John Slattery presents a hellish portrait of a hard-bitten hood

(15) Dir. John Slattery; Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christina Hendricks, 89mins
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The Independent Culture

God's Pocket, the setting of Pete Dexter's early Eighties crime novel and now this period adaptation, is a not very well named fictional working-class neighbourhood of Philadelphia.

Apparently there is a Devil's Pocket, which is a bit more like it. Filmed in sickly greens and yellows, with the textures of peeling paint and shabby old furniture, it is the sort of neighbourhood whose residents are all either alcoholic, depressed or both; either working low-pay jobs, on the make or both.

Philip Seymour Hoffman's character Mickey Scarpato sometimes drives a meat-truck and sometimes steals them. The events of the plot begin when his stepson is killed on a building site. His wife, Jeanie (Christina Hendricks), who was unhappy even before her son's death, doesn't believe it was an accident, so soon the mob and a columnist for the local paper (Richard Jenkins) are asking questions.

But it isn't really a cause-and-effect kind of story. Stuff happens, and the characters have to roll with it. There is violence but it isn't premeditated. It comes suddenly and from unexpected places, which gives it an absurd feel. In fact the whole film is bleakly, bitterly funny.

There aren't many more of Philip Seymour Hoffman's screen performances left to come, and each one should be treasured. But the whole cast of God's Pocket is equally good, and each actor seems to fit their character perfectly.