The Drop (2014)

Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Michael Aronov

Directed by: MichaŽl R Roskam

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace with Rocco the pup in The Drop

Ah, the Mafia: it just ain't what it used to be. Take poor old James Gandolfini, once the feared boss of an infamous mob, now the jaded, overweight manager of an inconspicuous Brooklyn bar he used to run, which now operates as a 'drop bar' for Chechan gangsters, a safe house for illicit gains. Fortunately, he has Tom Hardy to help him tend bar. Hardy plays Bob, a man of few words who keeps himself to himself but can always be relied on in a crisis. One day, Bob finds an abandoned pitbull pup in a neighbour's garbage can. The neighbour, Nadia (Noomi Rapace), just so happens to work in an animal shelter and knows all about caring for a dog, and so the curmudgeonly loner and single waitress bond over... hang on minute. Is this a gangster movie or the cute meet of a rom com? Am I going to see wiseguys get whacked or a cute pup cavort around a kissing couple?

Oh, wait. Because Nadia's ex just happens to be a local nutjob called Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts), widely held to be responsible for the disappearance of another local face ten years ago. He's a sick, nasty man: he put the dog in the bin and now he wants money for him. Or else. Meanwhile, Gandolfini's Marv is sick to the back teeth of kow-towing to the Chechans and wants to make a final death or glory bid for power. That's more like it: there will be blood after all – phew!

Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini in The Drop

That aside, it's comforting to see Gandolfini on screen again, even if he does seem pretty fed up the whole way through the film, while Hardy is (as ever) utterly convincing as Bob. After his flamboyant turn in Peeky Blinders (write that down, son) he's back to channelling the strong silent type, Lawless style, his deadpan expression concealing untold depths: like Peeky Blinders co-star Cillian Murphy, he is the master of acting with nothing but a flash of the eyes and a subtle twitch in the cheek.

If you're after a glamorous, pulse-racing gangster thriller in the vein of Goodfellas then you're in for a disappointment. Like its taciturn hero, The Drop takes its own sweet time to get to the point and does so in a deliberately downbeat, thoughtful fashion. But just as Bob's few comments tend to be bang on the money, surprisingly blunt and insightful, so the pay off at the end of this film is worth the wait. That and there's a lot of Tom Hardy holding a puppy – what's not to like?

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