The Drop: Gandolfini’s gangster swansong

Jon Fuge

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The Drop carries with it a certain poignancy. The new crime drama, helmed by Michaël R Roskam, is the final film the late, great James Gandolfini finished before his death last year. While, towards the end of his life, Gandolfini had proven himself a formidable comedic actor, it was his portrayal of gangsters – from True Romance to The Sopranos to Killing Them Softly – that secured his status as one of the greatest actors of his generation. The Drop, a murky character study of people on the periphery of organised crime, makes for a fitting swansong.

The story focuses on Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) and Cousin Marv (Gandolfini), the proprietors of a ‘drop bar’ in Brooklyn – a bar that doubles up as a temporary bank for the city’s gangsters. The story is filled with all of the sticky situations you’d expect and framed by the relationship between Bob and his troubled neighbour, Nadia (Noomi Rapace), whom he bonds with over an injured pit-bull puppy he finds in a garbage can.

Bob is a mumbling, meek simpleton, but Hardy maintains an unspoken brutishness and knowing behind this childlike exterior. Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts faces off against Hardy as Nadia’s violent ex. He’s a dominating presence, bulldozing through each scene and bringing with him a constant, looming threat of violence.

Watching these brutish actors butt heads is a real treat, but it is Gandolfini’s supporting role that really steals the show. Cousin Marv is a sunken-eyed, beaten-down ex-gangster who has been strongarmed by the Chechen mob into running the drop bar. Marv is a man whose old-school ideals are no longer relevant, and Gandolfini plays this with a sympathetic weariness and self-loathing. While there are shades of Tony Soprano here, he carves out a much more disarming character, riddled with regret and constantly dwelling on how his life might have been different. It is a superb, understated performance that further reminds us of the great talent we’ve lost.

Jon Fuge is a writer based in London.

Watch the trailer for The Drop:

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