The Drop follows the two operators of a bar, used as a money drop for a crime boss, one the former owner attempting to orchestrate a robbery.
I will note first the oddity of an awards season, as so often is the case, in reflecting on the fact that James Gandolfini did not receive a bit of recognition for his final role in this film. This in that 2014 was not a year filled with supporting actor contenders, and it seemed it would've been easy enough to earn him a posthumous nod for his final role, particularly with the fact that the default, though not bad, nomination for Robert Duvall in The Judge, was able to coast to an easy nomination for a film without support. Yes I personally consider Gandolfini lead in this film, however it is not a clear cut case, it is definitely a borderline performance so it's not one that I would've even considered fraud. I guess the failed attempt for Enough Said, told them not to try twice? I guess, it just seems unfortunate, as it would've been an easy way to recognize the actor one last time. Anyways though lets actually look at the performances of both Gandolfini and Tom Hardy in what was technically his secondary role, in that it received less attention in the year, from the year after his "one man show" performance as a Welshman contractor going through a crisis in Locke. Hardy and Gandolfini play the operators of the bar that acts as the titular drop of dirty money, once in a while. Hardy playing the workaday bartender Bob seemingly just making a living doing his job as just that, and Gandolfini as Marv in the more complex situation being the former owner of the bar/crook, who lost ownership as well as his attempted criminal career to the Chechen gangsters they technically both work for as the film opens.
Gandolfini technically is fitting into the type of role he became known for as early as True Romance, however of course truly broke out in his TV star making turn as Tony Soprano. Although in the same world this is not Gandolfini replaying the part of the New Jersey Mafioso, not just because he's using his own appropriate accent for a NY pseudo gangster, but the whole being of who Marv is. Gandolfini's performance here is an interesting one in quietly subverting his typically more dominating presence in a subtle way. This as he portrays Marv in general with the slightly affable, if lazy, bar tender himself. His portrayal to the public seemingly as an unimportant soul just existing in the bar. This is rather fascinating in that this both directly connects to what Hardy is doing but in a very different way. Speaking of Hardy this is a performance that I'll say works in one way, but then works in an even greater way within the overarching revelations of the film. Let's look at the first side of that, naturally first, this in Hardy's portrayal of Bob seemingly is suited towards Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront, or Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. This is as Hardy portrays Bob very much within this idea of this working class guy with a small job in a small underworld. This idea, seemingly, further accentuated within his performance that offers a very similar performance, at first, to Stallone and Brando. This in presenting this certain withdrawn quality at times, as a man other might describe as fool if cruel, though more than anything just appears to be an unassuming bartender. This in Hardy's quiet retiring voice, and just his manner where he seems to look away more than he looks at people. This making Bob seem a man of no note to most.
Hardy though carries with him that certain captivating quality within the unassuming quality within his performance. There is something about him within Hardy's portrayal that is just slightly unusual. Now for the first viewing, almost the entire film, this seems to be just maybe the quirk of the unassuming man. A possible likable enough quirk as he discovers a wounded dog outside the house of a woman, Nadia (Noomi Rapace). This as Hardy's eyes accentuate this quiet concern for the dog, and earnest manner with Nadia. Hardy is hardly a romantic, not even compared to the somewhat clumsy ways of a Rocky Balboa. Hardy rather accentuates though this sort of seeming fascination in his eyes that garner some strange semblance of a gentleness of Bob in his disposition, the heart within the awkwardness that Hardy so well realizes, but perhaps that's not all it is. Gandolfini on the other hand shows a different man in his personal scenes, though two different men. The first though is perhaps the more expected as we see that Marv is behind an attempted theft of his own bar and planning an even large heist. Gandolfini's portrayal of these scenes is with a minor sense of cunning but also a sloppiness. This not so much in his own delivery but in his interactions with the men he chooses to work with. Gandolfini accentuating a certain frustration as he tries to be the boss to incompetence, and the whole time he's terrific in granting a certain worry within Marv's eyes sensing that these men are not exactly reliable.
Hardy's performance as Bob though takes on initially this seeming rooting factor for him in how we see him as this shy "hero" to follow. This as we see him interact with the criminal elements just that with a quiet service in which he takes no joy or interest other to the point of doing his job. Where Hardy emphasizes Bob's concerns is with his dog, particularly when a complication arrives through a small time crook, and former mental patient Eric Deeds (Mathias Schoenaerts), who claims the dog is his own and intends to blackmail Bob by threatening the dog. Hardy is amazing in these moments as his eyes conduct such a sense of concern for the dog and distaste for this man without saying a word. It is all in his eyes and brilliantly so in conveying the way Bob interacts with even people he hates, is in this quite yet specific reduced emotion. Now for Gandolfini there is that other side of Marv we see as well in his scenes alone with Bob and his scenes with his sister (Ann Dowd). If Marv was a little more likable these would be absolutely devastating, however they are still heartbreaking in there own way. This as Gandolfini reveals just a quiet desperation in the man with his sister. His own eyes filled with just the sense of defeat as he ignores his sister's suggestions to leave the city, and he just accentuates a man who sees his life as a dead-end. His only attempt at anything else comes when speaking to Bob, who was technically a former member of his short lived crew. In these scenes, which are closest to his performance as Tony Soprano in approach, in that we get a bit of Gandolfini's unique intensity which he makes this interesting sort of microcosm of anger in the way he tightens both his voice and body language to this seemingly invisible point right in front of his mouth. It is still not a copy though as here Gandolfini's manner is filled with such a pathetic need to prove himself, rather than merely proving himself. His anger going to the deaf ears of Bob who has heard all of Marv's delusions of grandeur before. Essential to note that Hardy's performance in these scenes where even though in his delivery he maintains a certain detachment, a low key, derision of Marv though without really a hint of actual venom in his voice.
Now the ending of the film is where there is the connection between the two. This as Marv gets Eric Deeds to attempt to rob the bar, when Bob is running it, in order to steal all the money from the titular drop. Where we saw Gandolfini portray Marv as on the surface just a guy going along with his plight as a bar tender, we find him as a bitter man trying to regain a hint of what he sees as his pride as a crook. For Bob this dichotomy is a bit more complicated. This is as Bob isn't just some awkward guy, he's actually a complete sociopath, what I love, is Tom Hardy is playing this way the whole time. This in his almost entirely detached manner with only emotion for certain things, like a proper sociopath, and even those emotions are largely reduced. This even more amplified in the moments where we see Bob directly interact with violence, indirectly. In that he disposes of body parts as though he disposing of any old garbage. Hardy playing with this disturbing clarity, that seems off, however it doesn't click until the ending where Eric is trying to rob Bob directly, but Bob first tells a story of a man he murdered for Marv, a man Eric has claimed he killed. Hardy is outstanding in this whole scene. This with his delivery of the story where Bob's stoic quality suddenly takes an unnerving quality to it while also just being wholly magnetic. This as there is this confidence even in it as he describes the kill in such a clinical way that is absolutely terrifying. This as his eyes have an eerie sense of purpose keeping his stare at Eric, where there isn't a hint of fear, rather eyes of sociopath ready to kill again. This which he does mercilessly to the unsuspecting Eric.
This transformation is incredible because it isn't one at all. This is Hardy just showing us those qualities in Bob from that certain degree of detachment in connection to violence, and his careful manner towards life. Hardy shows that he's not the quiet one because he's just shy, there's technically something mentally off about Bob, very much so, yet so easy to ignore due to his unassuming manner. The only major shift is the hate suggested in his eyes towards Eric comes out, in this marvelous rambling that Hardy performs as this unleashing of the few emotions that Bob does have. This as he derides Eric in such a peculiar way, but the way Hardy does it shows it as Bob's most vicious self towards Eric. This being the most Bob feels, and that means he feels it quite strongly. Gandolfini's final scene on the other hand is a bit simpler, as we just see Marv waiting out Eric's failure in a car outside until an assassin comes for him as well. This is one of those scenes that is heartbreaking, however I think that comes from one knowing it is Gandolfini's last filmed scene than really feeling too much for Marv who sowed his own demise. Even with that in mind though it is still beautifully performed by Gandolfini as his somber way of tensely closing his eyes is that of just a painful acceptance of death of a man without anything to live for. Although this isn't his greatest work it stood as a worthy sendoff for a man of his talent. For Hardy, this is one of his great performances. This in that he successfully is this off-beat working class guy with an oddly compelling quality, but then he subverts that by being this sociopath in plain sight. The man that "No one sees coming" as described by the investigating detective in the film. Hardy earns his idea wholly. What is so remarkable is that Hardy doesn't cheat in any way. In that he doesn't ruin Bob for any sympathies, he doesn't cheat to make the twist work yet he hides it. He allows one to care for Bob for all his quirks, those quirks though that he realizes all add up to a cold blooded killer.