Friday, September 12, 2014

A Tough Final Act for James Gandolfini


“The Drop” a Gritty Career Finale for James Gandolfini

By Skip Sheffield

Rest in peace big Jim Gandolfini.
It’s been over a year since James Gandolfini’s untimely death in Rome at age 51. “The Drop,” Gandolfini’s last movie starring role, is only just now hitting theaters.
Gandolfini returns to his familiar rough, gruff, tough guy persona as “Cousin Marv,” the proprietor of a Brooklyn bar of the same name. Marv used to own the bar, but he has been squeezed out by violent Chechen thugs who are the new landlords. The screenplay was written by Dennis LeHane (“Shutter Island”), based on his original short story “Animal Rescue.”
The rescued animal is a young pit bull saved by Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy), the bartender at Cousin Marv’s bar.
Bob is a pretty tough guy himself, but he is quiet and modest, with a soft side for defenseless, struggling people and animals. When Bob hears a dog whimpering, he lifts the lid of a garbage can and discovers the little gray pup, bloody and battered.
Bob knocks on the door of the house where he found the dog and he is greeted, very tentatively, by a pretty young woman named Nadia (Noomi Rapace of “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”). Nadia lets down her guard enough to allow Bob into her house to clean up and comfort the dog, who he calls Rocco.
“The Drop,” which refers to a money-laundering operation, is more about Bob than Marv. There is a lot more to Bob than meets the eye, and British-born Tom Handy is an actor with just the right calm but menacing intensity to pull it off.
There are a lot of creeps, thugs and losers in “The Drop.” The worst is a guy named Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) who claims to own the dog and threatens to harm him more. Furthermore Eric claims to be the boyfriend of Nadia, though she obviously dislikes and fears him. Clearly something will have to be done about Eric Deeds.

Though “The Drop” is Gandolfini’s last role, it is not among his best. Marv is really a supporting role. I prefer to remember Gandolfini with “Enough Said,” the charming, wistful romance co-starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, released last year. Gandolfini’s shy, battered suitor was a far richer, more compelling and endearing role by which to remember him.

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