Director: Michaël R. Roskam
Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts
Over a year has passed since James Gandolfini died, and the loss can still be felt. It fills me with a greater sadness to know that his last two performances – Enough Said and now The Drop - would be his best since his inimitable run in The Sopranos. Here, he harkens back to his iconic role that defined TV as we know it today.
Gandolfini stars Cousin Marv, a disgruntled manager of an eponymous Brooklyn bar which acts as a location for money drops by Chechen gangsters. He was once “in the life”, but flinched when the Chechens moved in and bought the bar from under him. Now he merely keeps the books while Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) tends the bar. Bob is a soft-spoken, lonely type, but when the two foil a robbery, the investigation threatens not only their business, but their livelihoods.
The Drop marks not only director Michaël R. Roskam’s English language debut, but writer Dennis Lehane’s first attempt at a screenplay. Needless to say, he turns in a far more accomplished effort than Cormac McCarthy did with The Counselor. The same goes for Roskam; not all directors make the transition from one language to another so easily, but he proves himself a natural. Compared to his impressive but unsteady debut, Bullhead, Roskam is confident, willing to use unconventional camerawork even moodier tones to tell the stories of these criminals in Brooklyn.
Lehane, of course, is famous for his novels Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island, all of which have been adapted into successful films. The Drop is a curious diversion for him; it is far less melancholy than his previous works. The script, while certainly in dark territory, is not without moments of unexpected black humour, much of which is delivered by Hardy’s Bob and his inability to stop talking once started.
But The Drop would be nothing without its cast, who are perfect. Hardy continues to show a broad range, this time not relying at all on his imposing physicality. Instead, he is matched by Bullhead’s Matthias Schoenaerts (displaying a flawless Brooklyn accent); the two are very similar actors, and it is satisfying to finally see the two on screen together. Noomi Rapace is equally impressive in a supporting role, bringing her trademark vulnerability to Hardy’s would-be love interest.
They are, however, all dwarfed by Gandolfini. Marv is his most poignant post-Sopranos role to date. In one speech, he refers to his former life as one of commanding respect through fear, and I doubt I’m alone in imagining this character as one of the routes Tony could have travelled down had the series turned out differently.
Things being left behind – literally, figuratively, emotionally – is a theme seen throughout the film. And in the light of Gandolfini’s unexpected passing after filming, the sadness of this leitmotif is only worsened. But if this is his swan song, there is no better note for him to leave on.