Who doesn’t miss seeing James Gandolfini onscreen? The Drop, a potent, propulsive crime drama, gives us one more chance to salute the formidable talent of a remarkable actor who died in June 2013 at age 51. Gandolfini is dynamite in his final screen role, as Marv, a small-time crook who runs a Brooklyn dive bar that serves as a money drop for Russian wiseguys. The bartender, Marv’s cousin Bob (a transfixing Tom Hardy), goes along with the scheme until he’s pushed too far.
Working from a taut script by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River), director Michaël R. Roskam (Bullhead) makes every brutal, bracing minute count as Bob takes a stand with the help of a damaged woman (a very fine Noomi Rapace) and a rescued pit bull. Lehane based the script on Animal Rescue, his short story about redemption, not just for the dog but for Bob. Hardy, a British actor of uncommon versatility, from The Dark Knight Rises and Inception to his tour de force in Locke, takes a slowburn approach to his deceptively quiet role. He’s a time bomb primed to explode. You can’t take your eyes off him.
Though The Drop covers familiar ground, it simmers with charged emotion. The image that lingers belongs to Gandolfini. Marv sits in his armchair, remembering his days as top dog. “I was respected,” he tells Bob. “I was feared. That meant something.” It also means something to watch the actor who embodied the contradictions of Tony Soprano bring such gravitas to what would be his last screen hurrah. That closing glimpse of him, awaiting his fate, is indelible.