Directed By: John Slattery
Written By: Alex Metcalf & John Slattery
Based on the Novel By: Pete Dexter
Cinematography By: Lance Acord
Editor: Tom McArdle
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Richard Jenkins, Joyce Van Patten, Eddie Marsan, Christina Hendricks, Molly Price, Dominic Lombardozzi, Caleb Landry Jones, Sophie Takal
When Mickey’s crazy step-son Leon is killed in a construction ‘accident’, nobody in the working-class neighborhood of God’s Pocket is sorry he’s gone. Mickey tries to bury the bad news with the body, but when the boy’s mother demands the truth, Mickey finds himself stuck in a life-and-death struggle between a body he can’t bury, a wife he can’t please, and a debt he can’t pay
This is a film that’s hard to describe as the fact that you have seen stories like this on-screen before. Though this one feels strangely authentic and that is the scary part. As the film is so downtrodden it seems almost the product of nightmares.
Luckily the film stays low-key. It goes by quickly and with nary a kick. Though it takes its time to tell its story. It doesn’t feel like it’s dragging. It’s surprisingly lean, though it feels indulgent. There is no real fat in the film.
The film has an amazing group of actors, who are all good and believable. You only wish the film had more to give them as far as story and quality. While the film relies heavily on the atmosphere it feels at times like it has very few places to go. It presents circumstances and challenges but very little action and story.
This being one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last performances it is noteworthy as he is our put upon the protagonist. Trying to figure his way out of an increasingly sticky situation. While also being his own worst enemy. He seems to be one of the few semi-decent characters who while not being from the neighborhood which everyone reminds him. Still seems very much the product of it as he seems to fit perfectly in.
The film is the story of more a neighborhood that seems to be its own trap. We just watch the inhabitants as they go about their day-to-day life. The main story selling point the death of a young man seems to be just one of those things. An act of senseless violence. That seems like it will become some story of the investigation and seeking justice. Though it ends up just being a catalyst for changes and actions for some characters and setting in motion events.
The film seems constantly depressing as the characters seem to always make the wrong decisions and there is little to no humanity. Everyone is out for themselves. Anytime there is humanity shown it is rather surprising and usually followed by acts of merciless violence.
Christina Hendricks continues to come across as a desirable screen icon. She is luminous and beautiful and though she plays a grieving mother. Later in the film, as she seems to be irresistible to any male. She seems oddly emotionless as her character knows better yet is shocked by the attention paid to her. She commits an act but does so with what seems little care. That has incriminating results that she oddly seems to have no concerns about. Though they affect her.
Richard Jenkins truly makes a mark as a columnist in the middle of all this investigation. While being from the neighborhood has his own demons to deal with while trying to get the story. As he is easily distracted and we get some clues for his condition. We observe his questionable prowess with women also.
In fact, the entire third act of the film becomes strange at how quickly the neighborhood turns from favorable to certain inhabitants to just pure hate and the reason seems rather thin. Like it happens more because the script and story demand it rather than naturally or organically.
John Slattery making his feature film debut, Picked an exemplary story to tell. It always seems when actors choose to direct they pick material more character-based and depressing that has to be gritty to bring more of a reality, but smartly pick material that allows for an ensemble to play off of and includes actors friends who are more the character actor types. He could have done slot worse in the material.
The film at times feels like it is trying too hard to be gritty and showcase all his grime and crime. Then at other times it wisely becomes more understated.
The film has a strangely happy ending or as close as this type of film can have.
This is a film that feels in the same world as TREE’S LOUNGE only not as optimistic and also would go well with a viewing of THE DROP only this is less exciting and feels more authentic.