Much has been made of this film marking the last screen appearance of James Gandolfini prior to his untimely death last year. Instead of being memorable for his good performance, it will be best remembered for the performance of his co-star. Tom Hardy has built up a steady reputation on the big screen which has seen him take up a wide variety of roles which have propelled his career to the point where he can lead a movie with confidence. His latest stand out role is in the crime drama, The Drop.
Uncle Marv (James Gandolfini) and his cousin Bob (Tom Hardy) run a bar. Marv used to run it when he was a player in the local crime scene. Now it is a drop point for Chechen gangsters to launder their money. One night the bar is burgled. Marv and Bob are held responsible for the Chechens lost money and have to find out who did it and get the cash back. The cops get involved and this leads to an investigation of both the present crime and the shady past of Marv. Meanwhile, Bob finds a stray dog in the rubbish bin of local woman Nadia (Noomi Rapace). With her help, Bob takes on the responsibility of looking after the animal. Nadia has her own problems with a local thug (Matthias Schoenaerts).
This film is all about the performance of Tom Hardy. He dominates the screen in every scene. For this role, it is a performance of restraint. At first, he comes across as being a little bit slow. He takes the time to process things. As the story and the character develop, you begin to see the true nature of Bob. He is gradual for a reason. He maintains control of himself. Hardy uses stillness to get this across to the viewer. He is very economical with his actions and his use of language. The screen writer Dennis Lehanne has commented on the approach of the actor. In the early drafts of the script, Bob was a lot more animated with dialogue. When Hardy was cast, the writer re-drafted the role and excised a lot of dialogue as he was well aware of how Hardy would approach and develop the character.
On the other hand Marv is a bigger prescience on-screen. The script plays to Gandolfini’s strengths with a lot of wise cracks and intense dialogue. The character has an image of himself that was firmly rooted in the past. He acts like the tough guy he once was but in his darker moments we see the man he has become. A very scared man who fears for the future of himself and those around him. A lot of this is conveyed through expression rather than words and it makes for a terrific final performance from the late actor.
Naomi Rapace manages to find a middle ground between the two male leads and her role of the damaged and frightened Nadia is very good. Like Hardy, she gives a reserved performance that conveys her characters traits with minimal use of language. It is an intense and memorable performance of a woman who had a difficult past and must follow a set of self-imposed rules in order to get by.
The storyline of the drop comes from the pen of writer Dennis Lehane. Originally a short story about the character of Bob finding and caring for a dog while befriending Nadia, the story was developed to include the main thread of the film with the bar, the neighborhood and Marv. It works well together with the various strands interweaving to increase the tension as the movie progresses. There are elements of violence which are short and sharp. They never feel gratuitous. The film has an underlying tone of menace, but it never feels the need to put this on the screen. Instead it relies on the character studies to keep the audience engaged.
Overall, a tight and intense crime thriller that really benefits from its leading actors on top form. Recommend.