It’s always easy to fetishize the final performance of a late, great actor – especially one as towering and impressive as James Gandolfini. Whilst other recent tragic losses, like that of Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, have yielded a range of so-so posthumous performances, this is thankfully not the case for the final chapter for James.
The Drop stars Gandolfini alongside the increasingly impressive and prolific Tom Hardy, who leads as lonely bartender Bob Saginowski. We follow Bob through a series of Brooklyn cash deals with gangsters under the oppressive eye of Gandolfini, playing his cousing Marv. After a robbery at the bar, the relationship between cousins, and Nadia (played by the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace) becomes more complex as an ongoing investigation uncovered the history of the small neighbourhood.
Right off the bat- can we all agree that Tom Hardy is simply a modern powerhouse? Whether in over the top roles like Bane or in restrained mode in Locke, the guy is unstoppable- and that continues here. Every moment he’s on screen, it’s impossible to take your eyes away from his complex unassertive turned creepy demeanour. Gandolfini continues his post-Sopranos career, playing yet another power hungry alpha male, yet here he’s shown as a man who never quite reached what he believed he deserved. The ways in which his frustration and anger manifest themselves in his actions and facial grimaces serve as stark reminders for the powerhouse we lost in his passing.
The film itself, as it moves along, is at an awkward rhythm. There’s an ongoing sense of immediacy at place, yet it feels like we, as viewers, are in a different place. The character of lunatic Eric Leeds, played Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts, serves as major player in the narrative climax of the film, yet seemed like an afterthought throughout the core of the plotting. The ongoing references to a certain character’s disappearance ten year’s earlier ties the film to an unknown point too- which hinders its pacing in the middle stretch. Yet tight dialogue script work tied everything together better than it perhaps should.
As a piece of cinema, the work is a confident enough English language debut from Belgium’s Michaël R. Roskam, who surely be working in the crime genre again, as for all the plot contrivances and legitimate moment of unoriginality, this is a highly enjoyable drama. The tight script and particularly the performances of its two leads, grounded by a glorious swansong by James Gandolfini, the film is able to sit higher than its peers. It certainly doesn’t escape the constraints of its genre’s formulaic tropes, yet it’s one of the better examples in recent years.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 104 minutes
As is to be unfortunately expected these days, the DVD’s special features are disappointingly lacking. The audio commentary from director Roskam and script writer Dennis Lehane is very middle of the road with little insight, beyond the expected (and deserving) gushing over James’ final film role. It’s bundled alongside the ever pointless gallery feature and promo collections- whose ongoing appearance on commercial DVD and Blu-Ray releases is as confusing as it is outdated.
Special Features Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Drop is out on Digital HD, DVD and Blu-Ray from 15th April 2015 through 20th Century Fox