We're left in no doubt that something dodgy is going on here - but precisely what it is we can't tell. All we know is that Marv is a miserable old bastard, while soft-hearted Bob is the kind of guy who rescues a puppy from a rubbish bin outside the house where his eventual love-interest Nadia (Noomi Rapace) lives.
It's this act of kindness which leads the gentle barman into an unwanted conflict with Nadia's ex, a no-good drug addict called Eric Deeds (Mattias Schoenaerts) who is rumoured to have at least one local murder to his credit. Eric claims ownership of both the dog and the girl, and hangs around like a bad fart.
To add to their woes, Tom and Marv's bar is held up by gun-toting gangsters. We haven't seen the streets of New York looking this mean since the heyday of De Niro, Keitel and Pacino.
Laced with a healthy dose of Catholic guilt - Scorsese would be proud - this is a layered and absorbing movie, smartly written and directed by Dennis Lehane, whose stories have previously inspired modern classics such as Shutter Island and Gone, Baby, Gone.
As a director he suffuses the screen with moody greys and dark orange, especially as the film weaves towards its inevitably bloody climax.
Not a movie to be watched if you're feeling knackered after a long day at work, it demands concentration - but it repays your attention with a stunning final Act.
Ironically it has rather more kick than Nativity 3: Dude Where's My Donkey - the latest instalment of what is fast becoming a seasonal franchise for Debbie Isitt. If you saw Catherine Tate squirming as she tried to sell it on Graham Norton recently, you'll have a good idea of just how bad it might be - although nothing can quite prepare you for this hour and half of shockingly unfunny cinema. It's a waste of talent masquerading as entertainment.
The first Natvity outing had a certain charm; Nativity 2 was just about OK. This is dreadful - more dud than Dude.
It tells the story of a bunch of Coventry schoolkids desperate to get New York so that their teacher Mr Shepherd (Martin Clunes, what were you thinking of?) can marry his fiancee. Clunes bumps his head and loses his memory - which is where the one constant in the series, Marc Wooton's dim witted classroom assistant Mr Poppy comes in, by trying to help the school win a flash dancing competition. The prize - yep, you've guessed it - is a trip to Big Apple.
Dude, where's your donkey? At this rate, heading for the knacker's yard.
If you're looking for a proper, warm-hearted pre-Xmas movie to enjoy with the kids, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a far better bet. Ed Oxenbould plays the eponymous hero, who wishes a miserable day upon his over-achieving family, and then lives to regret it.
Thoughtful, with a few belly laughs thrown in, this is a rarity - a domestic drama that all the family can appreciate and enjoy.