Synopsis: Tom Hardy plays Bob Saginowski, a mild-mannered bartender at Cousin Marv’s — a Brooklyn neighbourhood pub owned by the Chechnyan mafia. Marv’s bar is sometimes used as a “drop,” a place where gangsters secretly hide money until it is collected by their crime bosses. One night after work, Bob hears a dog whimpering from inside a garbage can. Lifting the lid, he finds a beaten pit bull puppy. He adopts the dog and romances Nadia, (Noomi Rapace), the woman who helps him rescue the animal, but soon a robbery, a scheme by his boss Marv (James Gandolfini) and the dog’s former owner (Matthias Schoenaerts) force Bob to show his true colours. Steve Gow sits in for Mark Breslin this week.
Richard: Steve, this is a boy-and-his-dog story, but it ain’t Old Yeller. Sure there are gun shots and a cute dog, but there is also a slow unveiling of the clues, red herrings and characters with shady pasts. As Bob, Hardy is a cypher; kind to dogs, shy and lovesick, he’s an average neighbourhood guy. Except in this neighbourhood, average guys have pasts, and Hardy does a nice job of playing a guy who is trying to move on while the past tries to stop him in his tracks. What did you think?
Steve: As the deadbeat bartender who may or may not be what he seems, Hardy certainly crafts a compelling character with a unique set of subtleties. Even the gait of Bob’s walk and the curious physicality of Hardy’s character is distinguished and fantastically nuanced. It’s just too bad the story itself feels a bit too played out. There’s nothing quite fresh about the intertwining local gangsters and interlopers here. Plus, a few plot ambiguities don’t help keep the story clear. Or was that the red herrings?
RC: I thought of it as a slice of life, a slickly made look at the underbelly of crime, relationships and dog rearing. Nice performances make up for some plot idiosyncrasies and the cute dog earns some goodwill for a story that doesn’t so much comment on the condition of its characters as it does reveal it. What did you think of Gandolfini in his final role?
SG: It’s a bit of a bittersweet final curtain for Gandolfini — whose character is a bit morose. But the late actor’s presence is as bold as ever and, in scenes with Hardy, the two of them burn up the celluloid — especially in the movie’s softer moments — as when Bob corrects the burly former bar owner about the proper pronunciation of “Chechen.” Surprisingly, the film is actually darkly humorous.
RC: Gandolfini does play to type as the Tony Soprano-Lite bar owner and while it is a part he could play in his sleep, there is something comforting about seeing him, one last time, as a conflicted tough guy. And you’re right, the movie is darkly humorous, until it turns rather dark at the end.
SG: It was also a bit anti-climactic for me. For all the mystery built up around the characters, the not-so-surprising twist at the end tries too conveniently to wrap everything together. The film is entertaining enough but it doesn’t quite add up.