Review by Jane Freebury
A smoothly crafted tale of minor redemption that gives James Gandolfini his final bow, has a British and a Swedish actor in the lead roles and is directed by Belgian film academic Michaël K Roskam. The mean streets of NYC on screen belong to everyone now, not just the Chechen overlords seen here.
Cousin Marv’s Bar is at the film’s dark centre, a joint for heavy drinkers with brawny arms, and a world away from the wholefood joints and trendy bars that are proliferating in Brooklyn these days. It’s owner Marv (Gandolfini) has cut a deal with the criminal world, to help them do their dirty work. He keeps his hands clean, or seems to, helped enormously by his Father Christmas paunch and avuncular demeanour. His side kick is family, a young cousin by the name of Bob (Tom Hardy), who also in his way looks an innocent, until an information drop much further down the line.
While walking down the street in daylight—sunshine is a rare commodity here—Bob hears whimpering from inside a trash can, peers in and pulls out an injured puppy. A woman (Noomi Rapace) emerges from the backdoor. A world away from her signature role as the girl with a dragon tattoo, Rapace’s Nadia is wounded and nervous, but seems to know something about how to care for pets. Bob will need to buy a leash and poop bags, and he will have to put his shoes out of reach on a shelf.
As Bob’s relationship with her begins to grow, it’s clear that they are being watched. Various characters in dark clothes and beards drop in and out of frame. The threat of violence is never far away, enhanced with tight framing and gloomy streetscapes, the full panoply of generic signs.
Brooklyn is not exactly New Jersey, but Gandolfini is not so far away from the role that made him famous in television’s The Sopranos. The split between the private and the public persona, between family or tribe and the wider world where one operates is also at issue here, if to a lesser degree. Morality, loyalty and compromise and our drive for intimacy and warmth all get an airing here.
Tom is a curious character, distant and alone, though when we eventually do find out more it is like ‘too much information’. The police find him interesting too, not just because he goes to mass but never takes communion. It is interesting that the church has a presence, though it will soon be swept away by developers and replaced with a condominium.
The Drop is another screenplay from Dennis Lehane who wrote the excellent Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River. It’s great to be told a really robust story for a change.
In a capsule: A smoothly crafted, atmospheric tale from Brooklyn’s mean streets, about a man and a dog and his chance at another, better life.