Hands up time, I have never seen an episode of the critically acclaimed TV series Mad Men, there you are I’ve admitted it! But I do know that it’s set in the 1960’s and its about an advertising agency, and of course I’m aware of some of the actors that are involved including John Slattery and the rather attractive redhead Christina Hendricks. The reason I mention this is twofold, firstly Slattery has now directed and adapted his first feature film, Gods Pocket (2013) with Hendricks taking the main female lead. It is based on a novel by Pete Dexter who was also responsible for writing and incidentally adapting, Paperboy (2012) for the big screen.
Set in 1978 Gods Pocket is a run down district of Philadelphia. An area that seems to accommodate the very underside of humanity, if there not spending there time in the street corner bar there running wee crooked scams for the local ‘connected’ hood Sal Cappi. That is until Jeanie Scarpato (Hendricks) son Leon, gets killed in mysterious circumstances in the construction yard where he works. Jeanie is married to Mickey (the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is Leon’s stepfather and who we first see highjacking a meat truck with Arthur Capezio known as Bird (John Turturro) and Sal. Mickey, who was not born in Gods Pocket and therefore will always be an incomer, will do anything to please his beautiful wife so when she asks him to find out how her rather nasty drug addicted racialist son died, she does not believe it was an accident, he sets out with the help of Bird and Sal to investigate the events leading up to her boys demise. When the journalist Richard Shellburn (the scene stealing Richard Jenkins) hears about Leon’s death he requests an interview with Jeanie for the local paper, on meeting her he immediately falls in love! Meanwhile Mickey is arranging a funeral, with the local undertaker Smilin’ Jack Moran (British actor Eddie Marsan) but is having problems raising the $5000 to keep Jeanie happy!
This is an absolutely cracking movie that should not be missed, if you have not seen it at the cinema then you will have to wait for the DVD release in December 2014. But believe me its well worth it and not just to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last films but also to enjoy the clever casting, even in the smaller roles, that enables the portrayal of some terrific characters. American movies always seem to succeed when they show realistic situations and include people that don’t subscribe to the American dream! A worthy debut from John Slattery.