God's Pocket - Blu-ray Review

 'In the hands of seasoned veterans such as the Coen Brothers this story may just have worked, but Slattery's sloppy execution smacks of his inexperience and costs his film dearly'.

Alongside the final two instalments of the Hunger Games movie franchise and John Le CarrĂ© adaptation A Most Wanted Man, John Slattery's inaugural directorial effort God's Pocket has the cold but undeniable challenge of making itself memorable for something other than posthumously featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Of these four, Slattery's film has arguably the toughest job in overcoming this hurdle before it's even begun; disappointingly, it's a task which it never manages to achieve.

Slattery largely puts characterisation over storytelling, something which he for the most part pulls off thanks to his talented cast. Whilst not at his very best - and looking somewhat haggard throughout - Hoffman is still reliably strong in the lead, having great chemistry in particular with John Turturro, who gives an excellent and understated turn throughout. Elsewhere, Richard Jenkins and Eddie Marsan are both dependable and welcome presences in support, although, as with Hoffman, we've seen both deliver better than what they offer here.

When it comes to narrative, God's Pocket's problems start very early on. The opening sequence presents the funeral of Leon (Caleb Landry Jones), before the film shifts to three days earlier and soon reveals how he died. The director at several points clearly wants the audience to invest in Leon's death, but makes it almost impossible for us to do this by presenting the character within his relatively brief screen time as a comprehensively vile and unlikeable individual. Whilst it can't be argued that his death is deserved, neither does it resonate as the tragic loss many of the characters see it as.

God's Pocket has more in common with the work of Joel and Ethan Coen than shared cast members (Hoffman, Turturro and Jenkins are all Coen alumni), although this comparison unfortunately ends up working against it. Slattery attempts some Coen-esque black comedy and unexpected bloody violence, but consistently fails to make it work. The pair of violent scenes presented here may simply feel out of place, but the director's decision to shift haphazardly between hard-boiled drama and darkly comic scenes makes his film an experience that frequently jars with itself and fails to satisfy. The sluggish pace Slattery chooses for much of God's Pocket only makes it even more of a chore, with most of the film's ninety minute running time feeling a lot longer for all the wrong reasons. In the hands of seasoned veterans such as the Coen Brothers this story may just have worked, but Slattery's sloppy execution smacks of his inexperience and costs his film dearly.

Slattery's film ends up both a narrative non-entity and a tonal mess. What God's Pocket offers as a crime drama can be found much more successfully in any number of other films. What does work here is thanks to the talent found within the cast; there's a strong sense that without these key players, the film would more than likely have fallen apart.




God's Pocket is available on UK Blu-ray and DVD from Monday 12th January 2015.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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