Runtime: 129 Mins Total
What To Expect: A tense drama with rich characterization, surprising ending, decent Blu-ray release
This is the final film of the late (and great) James Gandolfini. I’m glad it was this, instead of some shitty romantic ensemble or something like that. This is a film that won’t be appreciated by everyone and leaves a lot to its cast, not least reading their performances to realise who is who and why is why. It’s one of those ‘slow burner’ movies that really doesn’t give a damn if its audience wants to move fast than it does.
In the criminal underworld gangsters are not keen on using banks to store their money. So they use local business outlets to store and/or launder money through, such as clubs and bars. James Gandolfini is Marv, an ex-mobster who is under the thumb of Chechen gangsters and has to use his bar for routine ‘drops’ of large amounts of money, where the cash sits temporarily. His cousin is Bob, played by Tom Hardy, who also works at the bar. After one drop, their bar is held up by two robbers, who make off with the money. The walls close in on Gandolfini and Hardy as the Chechens come calling for the money stolen on their watch. Their troubles double when Gandolfini struggles to pay his father’s medical bills, and Hardy is brought into conflict with a third antagonist (and murderer) over the ownership of a battered boxer puppy.
The thing that allows the film to remain watchable throughout are the performances. Hardy is a good actor, I won’t deny him that. Gadolfini is even better. It takes a powerhouse actor to be famous for one gangster role to step into the shoes of another and deliver a completely convincing, separate, performance. A good example is Al Pacino. If you want to see what real acting is, watch The Godfather Part 2 and Scarface back to back. Two gangsters, but two polar opposite performances. Gandolfini is also capable of this, and comes off as a more subtle and weary mobster here.
Tony Soprano will forever loom large, but the difference is brilliant, to the point where I wonder if he’ll nab an Oscar. These performances and their subtleties by the way are key to understanding the film. You have to study these characters to properly enjoy the twist/twirl ending. Which is very satisfying by the way. I guess that’s the opposite of something the Nolans would come up with, where actors run their mouths dry with exposition.
This movie was shot digitally, so we expect a canvass of fine detail and it does not disappoint. The movie itself is often dark and gloomy, but such scenes aren’t let down either, you can see everything the way it was intended to be seen and it has to be said, better in a lot of instances than the big screen, don’t waste this one by downloading some crappy compressed encode. There are six minutes worth of deleted scenes and Michaël Roskam and Dennis Lehane provide commentary duties. Extras wise there are a handful of small documentaries, none of which goes beyond a few minutes. I’m quite disappointed however than even though he gets fair treatment on the commentary track, the late and great James Gandolfini only gets a pissant two minute featurette. This was his last movie, he deserved better.
This is a great movie and I really enjoyed the ending that it built towards and did not feel sold out by it, the Blu-Ray transfer is also unsurprisingly solid, a little thin on extras though.