Writer: Dennis Lehane
Cast: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz
Running time: 106mins
The lowdown: Destined to be remembered as James Gandolfini’s final screen appearance, this crime drama does his talents justice. Tom Hardy takes centre stage playing a good-natured, soulful bartender at Gandolfini’s New York bar. When stick-up men jack a $5,000 drop at the bar intended for Chechen mobsters the two must retrieve it before they experience disappointment Eastern European gangland style. Solid crime thrills from the writer of Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island.
The full verdict: Now quality TV and film crime drama is so ubiquitous, it may be easy to dismiss The Drop as another polished take on criminal small fry in a tight spot.
But, with a friendly word and a figurative gun, we urge you not to make that mistake.
To do so would be to miss the subtleties and surprises in Dennis Lehane’s script, based on his own short story Animal Rescue.
And director Michael R. Roskam’s unflashy but accomplished direction, all beat-up New York locations, stately compositions of the neighbourhood church in which Hardy’s Bob Saginowski seeks solace (there’s a bit of old-school Scorsese Catholic guilt going on) and the purgatorial crimson confines of the local bar owned by cousin Marv (Gandolfini).
Plus, Roskam’s deft handling of a stellar cast, all breathing real, wounded life into their characters.
The title may refer to ill-gotten gains dropped into various Chechen controlled drinking holes, but also the connotation that each character has experienced a fall from grace and is seeking salvation.
For Marv, a paper tiger tough guy who wouldn’t pass muster on Tony Sopranos crew, it’s getting his bar back from the fearsome mob muscle who put him under their thumb.
For Rapace’s Nadia it’s a life free from her dangerous ex Eric (Schoenaerts), who may have been responsible for the killing of a local lad ten years earlier.
Both are bound to Bob. Decent and methodical and seemingly content to be a doormat, Hardy invests him with a vulnerability and chivalry that is mesmerising to watch. And his New York accent is better than his Welsh in Locke.
Drawn to Nadia after finding a pitbull puppy in her trash that she insists he care for, Bob is a character trying to do the right thing, while avoiding the questions of a prying detective (Ortiz) who wants to rid his patch of the crime and disappearances that have plagued it.
In true Lehane fashion the characters are as much a danger to themselves as the nominal threat from the missing money. The inevitable bloodletting still manages to pack new surprises as further secrets colour what has gone before.
A well-crafted swansong for the great Gandolfini in the same genre that propelled him to global attention and a reminder of how much he’ll be missed.