Sometimes a tragic event surrounding a production can overshadow that very work. The last film completed before the sudden passing of James Gandolfini, The Drop has enough going for it that it doesn’t garner respect for being the last work of a beloved actor. With great performances and deliberate pacing, The Drop is better than a generic crime-thriller, balancing suspense, humor, and heart.
Cousin Marv’s Bar is neighborhood bar in Brooklyn. Sometimes used by the mob as a drop bar, where all of organized crime’s money is dropped in an evening and picked up in the morning. Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) tends bar there most nights and his Cousin Marv (Gandolfini) is the manager. Though his name is on the sign, Cousin Marv hasn’t owned the bar for years after being muscled out by Chechen mobsters. One night after closing the bar is robbed, arousing the suspicions of both the police and the mob. Meanwhile, Bob strikes up a relationship with Nadia (Noomi Rapace) after discovering a beaten puppy in her trashcan. As the two try to nurse the puppy to health, Nadia and Bob must deal with Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts). A borderline psychotic who claims responsibility for an unsolved murder in the area, Eric used to date Nadia and claims that the battered pup is his. Having to contend with the mob, the wounded ego of Cousin Marv, the menacing Deeds, and a detective (John Ortiz) who won’t stop asking questions, Bob has to contend with these forces and keep his cool in order to survive.
The follow up his Oscar nominated Bullhead, director Michaël R. Roskam’s second feature isn’t ever showy. Working from a script by Shutter Island scribe Dennis Lehane, Roskam never lets the film buckle from the weight of its genre or expectations. It’s not afraid to take its time and to slowly dish out information to the audience. If Roskam and Lehane fault anywhere it’s having the film end on the right note, but they hit so many right notes beforehand that it doesn’t ruin an otherwise fine work.
As seems to be Hardy’s new signature, he plays Bob with a thick Brooklyn accent. Like this year’s Locke, Hardy’s accents are unique but always consistent, never dropping in and out. In his final role, Gandolfini is excellent as always, playing his character with the right mix of repressed anger and displaced masculinity. Watching Gandolfini and Hardy play off one another is to witness two actors at the top of their game. Of course, this comes with a tinge of sadness knowing that we’ll never see Gandolfini bring to life another one of these wounded tough guys. Noomi Rapace for the most part holds her own, her accent sometimes slipping as it did in Prometheus. And it’s impossible not to fall in love with Rocco, the little pup.
While by no means a revelation, The Drop is a well-acted, involving crime drama. As good as the film is at building tension, it’s just as adept at relieving it with a well-timed laugh. Of all the surprises in the film, I was most surprised at just how funny the film is. As well as Roskam directs and Lehane writes, The Drop is really an acting showcase. It’s another piece of evidence that Tom Hardy is one of the best working today, accents and all. No matter how much Hardy excels, The Drop is that final reminder that Gandolfini was a great. He takes some good material and makes his character great one last time.