It’s understandable to want James Gandolfini’s final film to make us forget, just for a moment, what he crafted during six seasons of “The Sopranos.”
“The Drop,” the actor’s final screen credit, doesn’t come close.
It’s intimate and brooding, unwilling to shed blood just for old time’s sake. In a way that’s why we’ll miss Gandolfini’s screen presence.
The actor’s work in “The Drop” doesn’t require his bulky physique or singular menace. His character once threw his weight around but now does as told for a slice of his former pie.
That strategy fizzles when thugs burst into the bar and run off with the mob’s loot. Marv is suddenly looking at a $5,000 hole he better fill, and fast. All is not what it seems, and the screenplay scatters hints as to why with a sniper’s precision.
Meanwhile, Bob adopts a stray puppy and is targeted by a ex-con (a mesmerizing Matthias Schoenaerts) who claims he’s the dog’s owner.
Hardy sheds his British accent, transforming into a man who wouldn’t know what to do with his own strength. He can’t make move one on a neighbor (Noomi Rapace) who makes excuses to spend time with him.
Bob’s mental capacity seems limited, something Hardy conveys so well it casts doubt on the third act’s credibility. Those final moments also are unkind to Gandolfini’s swan song. Marv is a complex man worthy of inspection. He lives with his older sister and wishes he still had the town trembling before him. As the story nears its conclusion we feel less connected to his arc despite the actor’s instinctual performance.
“The Drop” favors peculiar rhythms over superficial shocks. We see Bob and Marv shoveling snow, cleaning up messes and otherwise behaving like low-level thugs. Bob’s new best friend is given more attention than Rapace, even if she makes every pinched face count.
Author Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone”) adapted “The Drop” from his short story “Animal Rescue.” The film lacks the scope of those Lehane adaptations, but there’s enough grit to give Gandolfini a fitting screen farewell.
DID YOU KNOW: Tom Hardy lifted weights with his teeth to bulk up for The Dark Knight Rises,” eager to add muscle to his neck and traps.