The Drop had me at Tom Hardy and a puppy. And even without the puppy, there’s James Gandolfini in his final role, so for me, this was always going to be a win. But with Bullhead director Michaël R Roskam on board, it promised to be a bit more than a standard mobsters in Brooklyn flick.
Hardy plays Bob Saganowski, a bartender working for his cousin Marv (Gandolfini) in a dive bar which intermittently hosts ‘the drop’ ie collects the Chechen mob’s cash. Marv is a bit like Tony Soprano’s dim cousin, using even dimmer henchmen to get one over on the bosses he lost the bar to after his gambling debts got out of hand. That’s never going to go well, right? Bob sensibly keeps out of the scheming, he’s the quiet, steady one – marked out as a good guy from the beginning when he rescues a puppy from Nadia’s (Noomi Rapace) garbage can. When the bar is raided and the owners seem convinced it’s an inside job, things quickly get out of hand, putting Bob, his puppy and his potential romance with Nadia at risk.
Gandolfini is as good as you expect as Marv, a desperate, lumbering man who knows he’s onto a loser but can’t quite see past the chance of a big payday. And as Bob, Hardy brings a more than passable Brooklyn accent and a solid presence, he’s the emotional heart of the film and we need to believe in him despite a creeping sense that he might have his own dark secrets. At times it seems like the film is happening around him, while he waits to see how the next load of shit will land before getting back to his day job.
This is a well-paced, solid thriller from Roskam, wholly enjoyable and with enough twists and turns to keep you gripped throughout. Of course it’s the potential for puppy peril that keeps you on the edge of your seat, but it’s the performances that lift The Drop into something special: with Hardy in impressive form and the wonderful Gandolfini at his best, it’s definitely worth a look.
It’s probably obvious from the list of films I’ve written about here that romantic comedy isn’t my favourite genre. But I was tempted into this one because Julia Louis-Dreyfus rarely puts a foot wrong, and because it was pretty much James Gandolfini’s last role. It was a good choice, it’s a bit like being enveloped big cosy bear-hug from him while wearing a warm jumper.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is Eva, a masseuse, divorced and of a certain age who is a bit nervous of embarking on a new relationship, but unwilling to spend the rest of her life alone. When she meets Albert, a twinkly-eyed bear of a man who makes her laugh, she’s tempted to dip her toe back in the water. Their fledgling romance is sweet and funny, and when Eva discovers a way to find out whether he’s the man she thinks he is, she makes a slightly foolish but completely understandable decision to find out for sure. If you’ve been bitten once, you want to know whether to expect it again, right? But of course her natural curiosity comes all the way round to bite her on the bum.
There’s nothing not to enjoy here, Louis-Dreyfus is great as Eva and Gandolfini plays Albert with real affection – he probably wouldn’t be your first choice for a romantic lead, but here you’re rooting for him from the start. He has all the gruff tenderness of Tony Soprano with none of the murdering.
Nicole Holofcener has directed a smart, funny comedy for grown-ups who know that life is rarely as perfect as you’d like it to be but who understand about compromises and how to make them. And who know that sometimes those awkward compromises can lead to something wonderful.
Watch this on a rainy day with a large bar of chocolate and prepare to be a bit misty eyed when Gandolfini appears.