Gandolfini’s final performance wasted in lackluster ‘The Drop’


By Ian Flanagan / Staff Writer

“The Drop”

Directed by: Michaël R. Roskam

Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace

Grade: C+

The most original thing about film, compared to other storytelling media, is its ability to convey emotion through particular visual framing ­­— shaping the mood and energy of cinematic situations with the artistic tools of cinematography and direction. “The Drop,” for all its great performances and interesting plotlines, is misshapen and contorted by its abysmally arid, lethally lackluster visual filmmaking.

Bleak and cold in tone, “The Drop” is also stylistically stiff and inert, with no character and no artistic occupation other than filling a screen for 100 minutes. Second-time director Michaël R. Roskam takes no risks and, therefore, claims no victories, resulting in a film that contains no particularly interesting shots and consistently strains the viewer’s attention.   

Unlike the faster pace of similarly themed crime films, “The Drop” has the rhythm of a Western. Maybe that’s what would have worked best for a serious film with such a curiously small scope, but it completely hinders the ability to build tension and break it properly. Instead, “The Drop” plods along aimlessly, with predictable moments of harsh violence in an otherwise lifeless film.

Based on the 2009 short story “Animal Rescue” by Dennis Lehane, screenwriter for “The Drop,” the movie follows Bob (Tom Hardy), a quiet New York bartender. Along with Marv (James Gandolfini), Bob’s cousin and employer, he uses their business for more than serving alcohol, secretly receiving cash drop-offs for local gangsters. 

But after a robbery prompts an unwanted investigation of the establishment, led by Detective Torres (John Ortiz), problems begin to mount for the family business. In the meantime, Bob rescues an abandoned dog with the help of Nadia (Noomi Rapace), who befriends Bob and becomes tangled in Bob’s dangerous situation. 

It’s fairly intriguing material, and, if it weren’t for the impossibly bland execution, “The Drop” would have been an acceptable, if moderately clichéd, little crime film elevated by strong performances. Although the acting doesn’t save the movie’s soul, the expert work of Hardy and Gandolfini make the film feasibly watchable. 

Though his character has little expression, Hardy has proved again and again that he can hold an audience’s attention, whether he’s fighting Batman or just driving a car (as he did in this year’s absorbing one-man show, “Locke”). He’s the highlight of this film, carrying its dreary weight on his capable shoulders. Gandolfini, in his final posthumous film appearance, goes out swinging in a funny, yet terrifying, supporting role that’s a swan song to be proud of.

Yet, even with a short run time, “The Drop” feels slow and insignificant. It is an extraordinary feat in wasted potential.