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Stars: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Michael Aronov
Director: Michael R Roskam
A grindingly good crime drama, unmistakeably set in New York, where, as bartender Bob (Hardy) explains, 'drops' are always taking place - protection money and various illegal transactions, a multi-laundering process.
Down a dingy road lurks Marv's Bar, where Marv (Gandolfini in his final screen role) and Bob host a procession of drunks, drifters and casual drinkers in a blue-collar neighbourhood.
Marv was once a big cheese but, as Bob puts it, he 'blinked' long ago, and they now pay weekly protection money to a group of Chechen gangsters.
Bob finds a pit-bull pup in the dustbin outside the home of Nadia (Rapace) and gradually decides to adopt it: the plan - and his budding relationship with Nadia - is quickly threatened by the re-appearance of Nadia's ex, and the dog's previous owner (Schoenaerts) whose claim to crime fame is having executed a famous murder some years before.
Meanwhile, Marv's Bar gets held up by masked bandits in a heist that soon proves to have been masterminded by Marv himself, who has bigger things to come in mind.
Hardy's amazing Noo York accent brings to mind Marlon Brando's in On the Waterfront; as always the Brit actor is totally into his role. Sweden's Rapace also sports a convincing American accent and Gandolfini is as ingratiatingly eye-catching as ever, but this is Hardy's film. Tightly plotted and with no spare flesh on its scenario, it sucks you into its story from start to finish.
You sense there may be more to Bob that meets the eye, but later twists are so swiftly delivered as to give the audience little chance of seeing them coming. Don't miss this grungy gem.
USA 2014. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Colour by deluxe.
103 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.
Review date: 10 Nov 2014