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In the movie The Drop, what is the history of the characters Bob and Marv?

There is a short conversation between them where Bob asks Marv if he did something in desperation.

Marv also suggests something about being respected earlier.

Who exactly were they before they became bartenders?

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I think you're talking about the fact that at one point Marv was a loan shark. He was a "player' in the Mafia. At some point, Marv got himself into debt and was forced to hand over the ownership of his bar to the Chechen mobsters.

Bob was Marv's "muscle" when he was a loan shark. Bob, if you recall at the end, was actually the one who killed Richie Wheelan on orders from Marv.

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Based on another explanation I came across in the link The Drop : Explained & Reviewed it looks like the two were loan sharks. Based on what Bob explains in end he killed Ritchie for the sake of an old debt. This debt made them work for the mob as bartenders.

Before that they were independent and had their own say in things. Over time they were forced to work under the mob. Also, that is why Marv stole from the bar. He is taking the mob's money. So they kill him.

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