** (out of four)
There’s no denying the community flavor of “Mad Men” co-star John Slattery’s directorial debut. Adapted from Pete Dexter’s novel (Slattery also co-wrote the script), “God’s Pocket” takes place in the titular Philadelphia neighborhood, whose label isn’t used as a compliment. The town’s got a chip on its shoulder and dirt under its fingernails.
What happens there, however, is all over the place. Mickey (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his final roles) does little to mourn his stepson, Leon (Caleb Landry Jones), but obliges when his wife, Jeanie (Christina Hendricks), wants Mickey to uncover the truth—she thinks this was no workplace accident. Viewers know what happened: The kid was an obnoxious racist who put a knife to the throat of a black man, who then hit the Leon over the head.
Rather than address the reality of an awful child like “World’s Greatest Dad,” Slattery lets the tone wander between dissatisfied drama and dark comedy,resulting in a foggy affair that chases its own tail. That may be appropriate for the setting, but an offbeat movie still needs to find a rhythm.
Originally published during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival
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