Film Review: ‘The Drop,’ too easy a final role for James Gandolfini
Directed by Michael Roskam
The Drop, directed by Belgian director Michaël R. Roskam and based on Bostonian Dennis Lehane’s (Mystic River) screenplay, is a thriller set in a white working class Brooklyn mainly populated by mobsters, sociopaths, and losers.
The artists and young professionals who inhabit large slices of contemporary, gentrifying Brooklyn don’t appear here. Rather, what’s portrayed is an older version of that borough — one built on elements of the great On the Waterfront and countless lesser crime films. The film doesn’t explore the neighborhood’s texture, but gives us shadowy, noir night streets, and a few scruffy locations.
The Drop’s central character is a barely articulate, solitary, Catholic mass-attending bartender Bob Saginowsky (British actor, Tom Hardy), who says little and impassively does his job. He works in a bar run by his fat, middle-aged, weary cousin Marv (James Gandolfini in his last role) — once a personage in criminal circles — who lost the bar’s ownership to Chechen mobsters some years back. It now serves as a “drop bar” where hot cash from bookies is stashed for the mob bosses to collect when the bar closes.
The film is filled with convoluted plot turns that fail to hold one’s attention. It’s the performances that give the film its life. Bob, who resembles a less striking version of Brando’s poetic man-child Terry Malloy, seems slow, which is heightened by his self-conscious Brooklyn accent, but Hardy successfully conveys that Bob has much more going on inside of him. His Bob offers hints of being smarter, deeper, and more sensitive than the persona he projects. Even though the scenes with the bloodied pit bull pup that he rescues slow the film’s tempo down and add little except that Bob has a capacity for kindness, one gradually begins to feel the submerged, explosive violence, and profound guilt he carries with him.
Hardy’s Bob has more dimension and depth then the film’s other main characters, convincingly performed by European actors. Nadia (Noomi Rapace) is a damaged waitress who has lived on the dark side, and her ex-boy friend Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) is the violent psycho that we have seen in too many other films. Gandolfini is fine as the melancholy, resentment-filled Marv, who remembers that he was once “respected” and “feared,” and wants to make a comeback. Though he fits the character seamlessly, I wished his last role demanded more from him.
However, the film belongs to Hardy’s Bob whose emotional complexity gives the film its distinction. Still, The Drop concludes on a false note with Bob given a chance for redemption in this Brooklyn dominated by brutal, unlived lives.
At the Triplex Theatre in Great Barrington. For show times and trailer, click here.