* * *
Occupying the familiar turf of American gangland and with a screenplay from top US crime writer Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island and various episodes of TV’s The Wire), The Drop carries a strong European influence. It has an English leading man (Tom Hardy as quiet blue-collar loser Bob Saginowski), a Swedish leading lady (Noomi Rapace from the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and a menacing turn from Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, all overseen by his countryman Michael R. Roskams in the director’s chair.
Of course, this setting is all very familiar for the late James Gandolfini, whose final screen role this is. There is a certain irony to seeing Gandolfini’s Cousin Marv, a one time player in organised crime, bemoaning his lost glory days as a new generation of ruthless gangsters squeeze out the old order.
With Marv more like one of those dumb schmucks Gandolfini would prey on in The Sopranos than the New Jersey gang boss he played in the television series, this is a quieter role and one very much in support of Hardy’s central character. A character whose self-effacing demeanour may just be a mask for the real man.
"They never see you coming, do they, Bob?" asks religious cop Detective Torres, who, in a God-like way, seems to know all, but seems unable to intervene.
The emphasis here is on character rather than glossy violence, although the measured pace does suggest that Lehane might have stretched the short story the film is based on a touch too far in adapting it for the screen.
As with Mea Culpa, the threat comes from an eastern European mob, although the Americans obviously prefer to look to the former Soviet Union for their off-the-peg bad guys, in this case Chechens.
Keep an eye out too for Schoenaerts, who plays his part with a note perfect New York accent. Soon to be seen in a very different role as Wessex farmer Gabriel Oak in Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd, he seems to be already well on course to displace Jean-Claude Van Damme as Belgium’s best known living film star.
What happens: Bob Saganowski (Tom Hardy) works in a Brooklyn bar used by the mob as a drop off for illegal money. When two low rent thugs rob the place, his bosses demand answers. But they are not alone in wanting their property back. So does the unpredictable Eric Deeds (Schoenaerts), whose demands for the abandoned pit bull puppy Bob has rescued might just have more to do with his ex-lover Nadia (Rapace).
Best quote: Bob: "Listen here pal, you can’t come walking into people’s lives and..."
Eric Deeds: "Listen to me. That is life. That’s what it is. People, like me, coming along where you’re not looking."
Who for: Fans of The Wire and those who prefer the more low early films of Martin Scorsese like Mean Streets to his more overblown recent films, Quick review: Slow burning character piece rather than full on gangster epic that gives its viewers something to ponder.