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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

God’s Pocket movie review: rot in the city

God's Pocket yellow light

The cast is amazing and the film has a certain grim visual beauty. But ultimately there is little here but ugly senselessness.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The cast is amazing: John Turturro, Christina Hendricks, Eddie Marsan, Richard Jenkins, and — in one of his final performances — Philip Seymour Hoffman. *sniff* The film looks beautiful… by which I mean its evocation of the (fictional) 1970s working-class Philadelphia neighborhood known as God’s Pocket is grim, dirty, ugly, miserable, and depressing, as if actor turned first-time director John Slattery shot the entire movie through the grime-encrusted windshield of a big old Detroit gas guzzler. Pity the story meanders all over the place, loses sight of the motivations for some of its sad-sack characters, and doesn’t decide until about three-quarters of the way through that it wants to be a glum black comedy instead of the mean drama it seemed to be aiming for. Hoffman’s (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) small-time hustler needs to rustle up some money to pay for the funeral of his violent, racist stepson (Caleb Landry Jones: Antiviral) — let’s just say the boy will not be lamented by anyone except his mother (Hendricks: From Up on Poppy Hill) — which leads him and his pal (Turturro: Fading Gigolo) into all sorts of small-time trouble, some of which ends up (unexpectedly) amusing in a dismal sort of way. Meanwhile, a drunken newspaper columnist (Jenkins: White House Down) who fancies himself the voice of the city’s underdogs takes a shine to the dead guy’s mom, which leads to the most frustrating aspect of the film, the (probably inadvertent, but still a problem) implication that a woman don’t need no stinkin’ motives for anything she does, as long as it serves the plot. In the end, there is little here but ugly senselessness justified only by the downtrodden dispiritedness of this world and its inhabitants.

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God’s Pocket (2014)
US/Can release: May 09 2014
UK/Ire release: Aug 08 2014

MPAA: rated R for violence, language throughout and sexual content
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex, violence)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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