Movie reviews

God’s Pocket (15A) is a hardscrabble, blue-collar neighbourhood infested with grifters and thieves.

Movie reviews

When Mickey Scarpato’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) crazy son Leon (Caleb Landry Jones) dies on a construction site, Mickey’s wife Jeanie (Christina Hendricks) suspects that Leon’s death was no accident. Struggling to pay for Leon’s funeral, Mickey tries to find out what really happened to Leon; meanwhile, alcoholic journalist Richard Shelburn (Richard Jenkins) seems more interested in seducing the grieving Jeanie than he does in uncovering the truth about Leon’s death.

Adapted from Pete Dexter’s novel, John Slattery’s film is a heartbreaking reminder of what contemporary cinema lost when Philip Seymour Hoffman died earlier this year. Hoffman is superb as the put-upon loser Mickey, an outsider scuffling around the fringes of a tightly-knit community. Yet there is something vaguely noble about his hard-headed persistence. Feeding off his dark energy are some very fine actors, including John Turturro as Mickey’s partner-in-crime and Eddie Marsan as an unsympathetic funeral director. The period detail and setting — the story takes place in the early 1980s — is neatly observed, with grimy shades of beige and grey seeping up through the cracked pavements and rundown housing projects of what appears to be irreversible urban decay. For all the highlights, however, the film is less than the sum of its parts, largely because the extensive subplot involving Jenkins and Hendricks meanders pointlessly away from the main story. That said, God’s Pocket is worth seeing on the strength of Hoffman’s performance alone.

Welcome to New York (16s) stars Gerard Depardieu as Mr Devereaux, a powerful French banker who controls billions of dollars. Devereaux is also a self-described sex addict, which isn’t a moral issue when the boorish banker engages with consenting adults; but when Devereaux assaults a New York hotel worker, the full weight of the law descends upon him, much to his bewilderment. Abel Ferrara’s film is loosely based on recent historical events, and it’s very clear from the beginning that Mr Devereaux is to be viewed as a loathsome creature. To his credit, Depardieu throws himself whole-heartedly into the role, wallowing in Devereaux’s piggish behaviour and rendering the character oafish, grasping and animalistic, to the extent that some of the scenes — and there are many — of Devereaux’s sexual antics may require a strong stomach.

Unfortunately, Devereaux’s lack of redeeming features mean that the story really has nowhere to go, unless the point of the exercise is to revel in Devereaux’s humiliation. The banker’s wife, Simone (Jacqueline Bisset, in an excellent performance), comes riding to the rescue with bail money and a public display of loyalty, but her repulsion and exasperation at Devereaux’s behaviour is already shared by the audience — and besides, her support for her husband (this is not the first scandal that Devereaux, an aspiring French president, has created) is what enables him to behave as he does. Ferrara, who co-wrote the script, may have intended it as a hatchet-job, but the clumsy dialogue and one-note tone of moral outrage means that ‘Mr Devereaux’ isn’t so much dissected as bludgeoned.

Planes: Fire and Rescue (G) is the latest Disney animated offering, which opens with world-famous racing plane Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook), discovering his engine is terminally damaged. Reluctantly accepting that he will never race again, Dusty joins the Smokejumpers team, which fights forest fires at Piston Peak national park. A workmanlike, if unimaginative, adventure, this story involves Dusty trying to prove himself to his new boss, the helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), and finding out if he possesses what it takes to become a real hero. The same issues which bedevilled the original Planes — and the Cars movies that inspired it, for that matter — apply here, which is that the vehicles lack personality and charm (the humour is particularly laboured), and that the story is at times too obviously an extended advertisement for the merchandising tie-in. On the plus side, the fire-fighting sequences are dramatically rendered, and there are some good jokes for the adults.

Ratings

God’s Pocket

***

Welcome to New York

**

Planes: Fire and Rescue

***

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