**** (out of 5)
September 12, 2014
Tom Hardy as BOB
Noomi Rapace as NADIA
James Gandolfini as COUSIN MARV
Matthias Schoenaerts as ERIC DEEDS
John Ortiz as DETECTIVE TORRES
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Directed by: Michaël R. Roskam
BY KEVIN CARR
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When “The Drop” was being rolled into pre-production, I’m certain no one knew the gravity of the meaning to this film. It has become famous now for being the final film appearance of the late James Gandolfini. This fact makes the movie bittersweet, good because he does a fine job in the role, but bad because it showed him taking steps to a possible career resurgence.
However, had Gandolfini not died and had “The Drop” not been his final feature film, it still would be a solid flick. It’s a slow burn crime thriller that doesn’t overstay its welcome and offers the audience a lot to think about without being too heavy-handed.
“The Drop” follows two men – Bob (Tom Hardy) and his Cousin Marv (Gandolfini) – who run a bar in Brooklyn. The bar used to belong to Marv, and it still carries his name, but it has fallen into the hands of the Chechen mob. Now, it’s a “drop bar,” which means it’s one of the places where the mob collects all of its booking money. When Bob and Marv get wind that they might be the target for robberies, they try to find a way to stay safe and keep the bar operational.
Don’t be confused by the presence of gangsters and street crime in the Brooklyn setting. This isn’t a lickety-split action film, but rather a deliberately-paced suspense movie that puts the characters in uncomfortable situations.
The performances are what raises this film from a humdrum drama to a really solid flick. Hardy softly plays his role as a man who just wants to make a living tending bar. However, when pushed, he has to take extraordinary measures to protect himself.
Hardy is balanced by Noomi Rapace as an unlikely friend he encounters while rescuing a dog. Rapace brings her special blend of beauty and edge to the film, playing both vulnerable and aggressive at the same time. Her role is quite secondary to the male counterparts in the movie, but she makes the most of it.
And then there’s Gandolfini. It’s a real shame that he died when he did because it’s clear from his final acting decisions that he was straining to get away from the Tony Soprano role. This was never clearer than last year when he starred opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “Enough Said.” As the cuddly middle-aged lover in that film, he was decidedly against his type. However, his role in “The Drop” also plays against his normal convention.
Gandolfini is not Tony Soprano in this movie. His character doesn’t have that much power of cohesion. instead, he plays a guy who could have been a Tony Soprano but never had the fierce streak to do so. Now, he’s like a lion who has lost his teeth and been driven from the pride. He still looks dangerous, but he’s a shadow of what he once was. Gandolfini playing so close to his archetype but actually being quite different made this a defining and challenging role for him.
Like many other crime-based films, “The Drop” reveals a seedy underside of humanity. However, it also offers a certain degree of hope and warmth, which is surprising in its context. It’s difficult when making a film like this to make the characters’ lives appealing, but they manage to do so in “The Drop.”
“The Drop” is likely to be forgotten come award season (aside from plenty of notes about it being Gandolfini’s final performance). It’s hitting theaters a little too early to grow the legs it needs to take it into the fray. However, like last year’s “Prisoners” which faced a similar fate, this movie is worth checking out before it drops from the radar.