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The work of Philip Seymour Hoffman has always been compelling and watchable.

Following his premature death, there is that inevitable patina of voyeurist intrigue too, as if his final performances held a clue to his demons.

This low-key flawed gem of a film would have slipped by unnoticed, one suspects, without either Hoffman’s presence or, more pertinently, his passing.

Despite a strong ensemble cast which includes John Turturro, Eddie Marsan and Christina Hendricks, this story of 80s-set blue-collar strife in an insular district of Philly (God’s Pocket) struggles to find a consistent tone, wavering uneasily between black comedy, sleazeball chic and downbeat gloom. Imagine Moe’s Bar: The Movie without the spark.

Hoffman plays Mickey Scarpato, a down-on-his-luck huckster who needs money to bury his stepson and pay off his debts.

His wife (Hendricks) goes off the rails in her grief and anger. She comes to the attention of alcoholic journalist and minor celeb Richard Shelburn (Richard Jenkins) who buys into – and sells – the deluded myth of the working class heroes.

They meet at the end of each other’s tethers while Hoffman recreates Weekend At Bernie’s with his stepson’s corpse and a refrigerated meat van.

The cinematography from debutant director John Slattery (Mad Men) is assured and authentic and he finds moments of brilliance, like diamonds in the gutter.

But, without the necessary smarts of script and story, the film plods to a conclusion without any strong feeling that anything significant has been achieved.

What else?

The future of other projects Philip Seymour Hoffman was working on when he died

  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2: Unaffected. He completed his scenes as Plutarch Heavensbee before the end of the shoot. Scheduled for release late 2015.
  • Ezekiel Moss: Prohibition era drama he was attached to direct. Producers are exploring next steps and withdrew film for saleto distributors.
  • A Most Wanted Man. Stars as Gunther Bachmann in terrorism thriller. Finished and scheduled for release on September 12.
  • Happyish. Stars as businessman Thom Payne in TV comedy drama. Only one episode – the pilot – in the can. Future unclear.

God’s Pocket
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