The Drop – Gandolfini’s Last Bow
The neo noir drama leaves viewers wanting more plot, and nuanced characters.
Rated R, 106 min. Directed by Michaël R. Roskam. Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Michael Aronov, Morgan Spector.
James Gandolfini’s wintery silences and bitter outbursts are enough on their own to merit seeing this otherwise frustratingly vague slice of low-end Crooklyn crime life, but just barely. Love it or leave it, this is Tony Soprano’s swan song and, fittingly, Gandolfini’s role as Cousin Marv, a beaten-down dive bar owner who owes his neighborhood Chechen mafia a lot more than a fistful of dollars, is memorable in its weary grace notes. The Drop is adapted by Dennis Lehane from his own short story (“Animal Rescue”), and it feels like a short story in ways both good and bad. It’s tightly wound, concise, and compact like Tom Hardy’s taciturn bartender Bob, but motivations and allegiances – between the churchgoing barkeep and the righteously Catholic detective (Ortiz), who comes into play after Marv’s bar is robbed at gunpoint one night, for instance – feel merely shaded in. That robbery sets off a chain of events that never fully reveal themselves until the film’s staccato ending, by which time you’re either fed up with the miniscule crumbs of information Lehane has chosen to dole out, or you’ve sussed out the characters’ shadowy backstories on your own.
It seems everybody is somebody’s woeful, misbegotten dog here, even Noomi Rapace’s Nadia, the wary neighbor into whose garbage can the aforementioned pup was deposited. By whom? Local crazy Eric Deeds, rumored murderer, sociopath, and – natch! – Nadia’s ex. Rapace does well in a role that, frankly, doesn’t consist of all that much, and as Deeds, Schoenaerts muzzles some of the madness he displayed in Drafthouse Films’ Belgian import Bullhead (also directed by Roskam) to grim and grimy effect.
For all its scabby-edged brio and canine existentialism – everyone is in a cage of their own design at some point – The Drop falls just shy of genuine neo-noir nastiness. It barks, it even bites, but it fails to draw much blood from the viewer.
Now playing at the Oriental, Mayfair Mall, and Marcus Ridge Cinema.