by George Wolf
An accomplished writer and a young director combine talents in The Drop, while a masterful actor walks away with their film.
That would be Tom Hardy, adding fascinating layers to his role as Bob, lead bartender at his cousin Marv’s (James Gandolfini) place in a rough section of New York City.
Well, it used to be Marv’s bar until he, as Bob says, “blinked,” and allowed a takeover by some Chechan gangsters. Now, the bar is often used to launder cash for the foreign mob, and they don’t much like it when Bob and Marv are robbed one night after closing. No doubt, shady characters and double crosses abound, but Bob seems above it all. He’s calm, polite, a bit simple.
From the minute Bob rescues a battered pit bull puppy from a trash can, we get the drift: treat Bob the wrong way, and he may get vicious.
Writer Dennis Lehane, known for the novels that inspired Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River, and Shutter Island, infuses his first screenplay with familiar themes of desperation, regret and redemption. Though not quite as gripping as Lehane’s best work, the story is effective, and in capable hands with director Michael R. Roskam.
In his debut English language feature, Roskam creates a mood of palpable dread and inevitability. Despite a few occasions when his camera gets a bit too fond of gradual focus and Scorcese-esque panning shots, Roskam finds a tone of simmering tension and displays a confident hand with his superior cast.
Gandolfini, in his final role, is customarily great, and there is solid supporting work from Noomi Repace and Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone), but Hardy is the force driving The Drop. He’s mesmerizing, inhabiting his character so completely it evokes memories of 1950s Brando.
Yep, he’s that good. And the movie ain’t bad either.