“Are you doing something desperate? Something we can’t clean up this time?”
There are a few things that can make a movie seem like it’s worth seeing. Sometimes it’s the director or writer. Sometimes it’s the subject matter. I’d say for most people, it’s the actors involved. But it’s very rare that you get a couple of those things in abundance. When I first saw a trailer for The Drop, I’m not sure what got me more stoked, the involvement of Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini, or the gritty, street crime story. But I knew I had to see it.
Bob (Hardy) and Marv (Gandolfini) run ‘Cousin Marv’s Bar’, a place where illegal book makers often leave their day’s take, for it to be collected later by the local Chechen mafia bosses who run the neighbourhood. One night, the daily drop is stolen at gun point, and it’s up to Bob and Marv to pay it back, since it was stolen on their watch. Meanwhile, Bob finds a badly beaten pitbull puppy in a garbage bin and takes it in, leading to slowly growing relationship with Nadia (Noomi Repace).
The dog also gets the attention of Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), a local bad guy with a reputation for violence and murder. Now Bob is copping it from all angles, dealing with Deeds, dealing with the cops investigating the robbery, and dealing with an increasingly shifty Marv who may be trying to recapture some of the respect he had as a local loan shark before the Chechens moved in and took his action.
Obviously, Hardy and Gandolfini are awesome. That’s the only way those two know (or in Gandolfini’s case, knew) how to be. A New York mob guy, even at the lowest level, is a custom made role for Gandolfini, while Hardy gets to do something I’ve never seen from him before. For much of The Drop, he’s the put upon quiet guy, the whipping boy of Marv, Deeds and the Chechens. He’s almost weak, although because it’s Hardy, there’s the hint of a simmering rage and intelligence that lets you know there’s more to Bob than what he’s letting people see.
With Gandolfinfi and a New York mob-related story, you might think you know exactly what to expect from The Drop. I know I did. But I was wrong, and it managed to surprise me throughout. It had all the ingredients that I wanted from a Gandolfini, mob-related story, but it managed to use them in new and different ways. Even when it reveals a kind of twist at the end, it’s one of those rare twists that actually works to make everything you’ve seen until that point even better. It’s no cheap shock or gimmick. And as Gandolfini’s last movie, it’s also fitting that if he had to go so young, at least his last performance is something that lives up to the rest of his career and reputation.