- RatedNC16 /GenreCrime, Drama
His performance on the HBO cable drama series ‘The Sopranos’ has perhaps changed the way we look at the American gangster.
While movies such as ‘Godfather’ and ‘Goodfellas’ boast memorable performances by the likes of Marlon Brando, Christopher Walken and Robert De Niro, searing the image of the mafioso into pop culture’s consciousness, it is Gandolfini’s take on Tony Soprano that has reinvented the archetype for the millennial generation, bar none.
It is no surprise that Gandolfini’s formidable talent and burly gravitas give much weight to the character of Marv in ‘The Drop’, a taut crime-thriller adapted from writer Dennis Lehane’s 2009 short story, ‘Animal Rescue’.
It is the last movie outing for this acclaimed actor, who died of a heart attack at the age of 51 while in Italy last year.
The movie is directed by Michael R Roskam (‘Bullhead’) and marks the screenwriting debut of Lehane, and like his books ‘Mystic River’, ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘Gone Baby Gone’ – which have also been turned into movies – ‘The Drop’ bears the writer’s distinctive dialogue-driven narrative holding together a tightly plotted story.
On the mean streets of Brooklyn, Gandolfini’s Marv is a failed crime kingpin who rues his past at the top of the food chain. Now he runs a dive that serves as a “money drop” and has to pay humiliating obeisance to Chovka (Michael Aronov), the Chechen crime lord who owns the bar.
Tending bar is Tom Hardy’s Bob Saginowski, a lonely man whose quiet life gets worse when he adopts an abused pit bull and crosses paths with Nadia (an out-of-place Noomi Rapace), a waitress with her own troubled past.
When the bar is robbed one night, their ruthless paymasters suspect an inside job and demand that the money be retrieved regardless of the cost.
ROOTING FOR HARDY
This sets Marv and Bob on opposing paths, and throwing another spanner in the plot is the dog’s original owner, Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sociopath who takes pleasure in tormenting Bob and Nadia.
While the movie is an apt tribute to Gandolfini despite him playing the antithesis of Tony Soprano, the movie truly belongs to Hardy.
The scrappy British actor shows unbelievable restraint as the unassuming bartender Bob. After a virtuoso performance in ‘Locke’, Hardy is on point here again.
His Bob is soft-spoken, non-confrontational and a complete about-turn to most of the characters that he has played onscreen – a performance so subdued it earns a stab of pathos.
DOG AS PLOT DRIVER
Just like how Bob slowly nursed the abused dog to health and tended to its needs, the same goes for how the filmmakers treats Hardy’s character – treating it slowly, tenderly… until it bares its teeth.
The use of Rocco the pit bull as a character’s purpose is a genius way to advance the plot, especially when the different stories converge.
Lehane said he created the animal-themed short story as a new spin on traditional crime tales.
Although the film plays out like your typical crime pulp fiction, the movie is more than just a whodunit. In his English filmmaking debut, director Roskam has made a thriller with a tough edge, one that commands attention.
One of the film’s several subtexts has to do with loss of self-respect and fraught masculinity, as characters either fight or take flight.
There is an undercurrent of heartbreak for many of the scenes.
"I was respected," Gandolfini’s Marv tells Bob in one scene, "I was feared. That meant something."
And that scene of him awaiting his fate is eerily unforgettable.
'The Drop' opens in cinemas 16 October