The Drop is ultimately a solid mood piece, with strong performances that help elevate it above its derivative story elements.
The Drop revolves around Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy), a soft-spoken bartender who works at his cousin Marv’s (James Gandolfini) bar, which is one of many Brooklyn bars that serve as “drop spots” for local criminals to funnel their cash through. One night, while walking home from work, Bob discovers a battered pit bull puppy in a garbage bin and, with help from a woman who lives nearby named Nadia (Noomi Rapace), decides to care for the dog.
A short time later, Marv’s bar is robbed and he and Bob are left being held responsible by the bar’s true owners – a group of Chechen gangsters – for recovering the stolen money. However, in addition to that, Bob must fend off unwanted attention from a detective (John Ortiz), who uses the robbery as an excuse to start digging deeper into both Bob and his neighborhood’s past, as well as the interest of his newly-acquired dog’s former – and threatening – owner (Matthias Schoenaerts).
The Drop is based on the short story “Animal Rescue” by author/screenwriter Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), who also turned his source material into a feature-length script for the cinematic version. As such, the movie ends up covering similar thematic territory as past Lehane projects have (by touching on related issues of morality, religious concerns, etc.), yet there are enough subtle differences in the execution to distinguish The Drop from similar recent crime dramas.
Lehane projects often attract the cream of the crop in directing talent and The Drop is no exception, with Belgian filmmaker Michaël R. Roskam (the Foreign Language Oscar-nominated crime drama Bullhead) serving at the helm. Here, Roskam delivers a slow-burn affair that favors mood and character development over action, creating a drama that tonally recalls the disaffected vibe of 1970s cinema (think of the films by directors Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet that were released during that decade). As such, filmgoers who are intrigued by The Drop should keep in mind: this is a crime movie that’s far more drama than thriller.
Roskam’s approach uses simpler visual symbolism over stylistic flourishes, as well as quiet storytelling over melodramatic plot developments – allowing the moments of intensity or sudden violence to pack all the stronger an emotional punch for it. Combined with Lehane’s tightly-constructed script, which never meanders nor includes scenes that aren’t necessary from a character-building standpoint, Roskam’s direction allows the film to work as an effective crime tale with a decent moral core. The Drop is ultimately a solid mood piece, with strong performances that help elevate it above its derivative story elements.
Hardy delivers yet another excellent performance as Bob, offering a portrait of a man who seems kind and lonely on the surface, yet often leaves you with the sense that there’s something dark and dangerous bubbling on the inside. He is a psychologically complex protagonist, for sure, and Roskam’s usage of simple visual cues only further enhances that uneasy sense that Bob could, at the turn of a hat, become something very different than a gentle man who rescues injured puppies.
Gandolfini, in his final movie role, is compelling as ever playing Cousin Marv in The Drop; at first, the character appears to be another variation on the late actor’s famous Sopranos persona, yet as more is revealed about just what kind of person Marv truly is, Gandolfini continues to add more vulnerability and nuance to his performance. The same holds true for Matthias Schoenaerts (who also worked on Bullhead with Roskam) as Eric Deeds, a man who is clearly unstable and dangerous – yet, thanks to the way that Schoenaerts plays the character, it’s often difficult to nail down exactly what kind of threat Eric presents (which makes him all the more interesting to watch in the film).
Rapace as Nadia is another strong link in the chain of performances offered by The Drop; her portrayal of a person who is kind and thoughtful, yet clearly has a troubled past, is convincing and moving, despite the character not having much of an arc in the film. John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook), as Detective Torres, also remains fairly static throughout the movie’s running time, but Ortiz does fine work – playing the street-wise, yet pushy, cop archetype – and, at the end of the day, the character serves his purpose in the overarching narrative well enough.
The Drop, on the whole, is yet another fine addition to the growing collection of crime drama films that originated with the literature of Dennis Lehane. Its biggest shortcomings are, put simply, that it doesn’t break much new ground of terms of the genre, and that it may be a bit too contemplative and character-oriented for a number of filmgoers (meaning, they’ll just find it boring). However, if a slow-burn, well-acted, and mood-heavy adult drama sounds like your cup of tea, then you might want to give this one a look.
The Drop is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 106 minutes long and is Rated R for some strong violence and pervasive language.
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