Tony Soprano, Palooka From The Neighborhood? James Gandolfini’s Final Film, The Drop, Reviewed


Uneven final film in Gandolfini’s legacy

What would’ve happened to Tony Soprano if he hadn’t became a mob boss and instead wound up as just another guy from the neighborhood? If instead of the most feared criminal boss in New Jersey he’d been just another palooka who could’ve been someone but wound up managing a bar? That’s what is contemplated in The Drop, the film that marks James Gandolfini’s final film and posits an interesting premise given Gandolfini’s signature role in The Sopranos.

Marv (Gandolfini) was once a neighborhood tough guy with his cousin Bob (Tom Hardy). But a power play against them led to their ouster, of course, and now they run a bar with Marv’s name on it. It’s owned by some foreigners, the same ones that pushed Marv out years ago, and now the two are now just workers at the place that used to be their seat of power. It’s also a bar that serves as a drop point for illegal monies on occasion; the two are responsible for holding illegally obtained cash overnight in what’s supposed to be a safe (and anonymous) overnight holding spot. After a late night robbery that only hits their cash on hand, the two have to figure out who did it and get the money back.

All isn’t what it seems, though, and the small handful of twists that accompany the film’s plot are fairly easy to see. It leaves the film as an interesting character study about two men with various acceptance of their lot in life. Bob has no problem being a bartender, and working for the people he works for, because he’s accepted his lot in life. Marv still has dreams of grandeur despite being 20 years removed from being the local crime boss wannabe. It’s an easy guess as to what happens, of course, based on these two facts alone but the film makes a reasonable attempt at trying to keep us guessing from the obvious direction they’re heading in.

The thing about the film is that the involvement of Gandolfini as Marv. Gandolfini rose to fame by playing a New Jersey crime boss, of course, but playing the guy that Tony Soprano could’ve turned out to be is an interesting choice for him. Soprano and Marv were in similar spots but had different results when making their big move. Marv’s wound up backfiring and a life of crime was ruled out for him, unlike for Soprano whose move succeeded. It’s an interesting role for Gandolfini to take given his background as Soprano. Marv’s the guy who Soprano could’ve been if his big move had failed. He’s filled with anger over who he could’ve been, which is interesting compared to Bob who is accepting of his lot in life. They made their move and failed; Bob’s come to terms with the fact that he’s a bartender, not a criminal mastermind, but Marv never got over it.

Gandolfini is perfect for the role and there’s an anger to Marv that comes through profoundly and defines his life. Marv is pissed off that he lives with his sister in his 50s. He’s pissed he manages the bar he once owned. He holds it against the world that the guy he should’ve been in his mind isn’t the guy he turned out to be. He feels that this is owed to him and Gandolfini knows exactly where this guy is coming from. He’s played the guy who got just that, as well, and it’s an interesting juxtaposition against The Sopranos.

The problem with the film is that the big reveals are easy to spot. Throw in a near criminal misuse of Noomi Rapace in a throwaway role and this becomes a film that relies on the reveals to generate drama being open and easy to spot. It’s so predictable that despite the fact that it’s done well it’s a letdown because the easiest path available is the one chosen. The Drop is uneven in this regard, a sad final film in what could’ve been an interesting film career for Gandolfini.

Director: Michael R. Roskam
Writer: Dennis Lehane based off his novel with the same name
Notable Cast: James Gandolfini, Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, John Ortiz

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