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Arts & Culture

A Barkeep With A Past, In Slow-Burning Thriller 'The Drop'

Fox Searchlight

The shadowy, tough-as-nails characters of Boston author Dennis Lahane are transferred to Brooklyn (for no apparent reason) in “The Drop,” a new film by the Academy Award-nominated director Michaël R. Roskam. Tom Hardy stars as Bob Saginowski, a bartender who may or may not have a wicked past. He’s so detached and unemotional, he keeps you guessing throughout the film. It’s actually a wonder that any of the supporting characters can manage to have a conversation with him. 

The late James Gandolfini plays Marv, the owner of the bar, and frequent “drop” site for local gangsters to stash cash for each other, including members of the dangerous Chechen mafia. Like Bob, Cousin Marv may or may not be trying to go straight, although when he runs over a witness with his car, it’s pretty clear he’s not going to be singing hymns at church anytime soon.

But church is where Bob spends many of his mornings, and it’s there that he runs into a cop who smells something fishy about the way Cousin Marv’s bar gets held up after closing one night. The cop, and a tentative love interest played by NoomiRapace (“Prometheus”), barely register as plot devices despite their screen time. In fact, the authorities could have mostly been left out of “The Drop” altogether and the movie might have been a little tighter. Rapace is there primarily to offer a respite from the not-so-passive-aggression of the other males, and a way to get Bob to show off his sensitive side as he lovingly cares for an abandoned pit bull found in her trash can.

“The Drop” doesn’t have the kind of jazzy, whirling intensity of Scorsese’s mob pictures, or classics like “The Public Enemy.” I wasn’t electrified, but there’s a slow burn to Gandolfini and Hardy’s performances and interactions with one another that hints at both shared history and things better left unsaid, like just why Bob’s so good at shrink-wrapping a severed arm that needs to be disposed of quickly. Maybe he used to work in the butcher shop at the A&P. But Gandolfini’s face, a combination of surprise and admiration, suggests otherwise.