Movie Review: The Drop
Cousin Marv’s bar looks like any other. The usual suspects fill the same stools they have occupied for years. The white-haired woman clutches her drink in a lonely corner. The bartenders make sure everyone’s glass is always half full. But once in a while this watering hole becomes the drop for all unofficial income belonging to Brooklyn’s street bosses.
The Drop, directed by Michael Roskam (Bullhead), presents its audience with a gray area in organized crime: the middle man. Based on Dennis Lehane’s (Mystic River) novella, The Drop follows bartender Bob Saginowski (played by Tom Hardy) as he tries to lead a quiet life working with his cousin Marv in Brooklyn. Nearly a decade before the film opens, Marv (the late James Gandolfini) reluctantly sells the bar to a Chechen crime family. Since then the venue occasionally, and at random, becomes the drop for dirty money as it changes hands from dealers and bookies to captains and bosses.
Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini create a quirky partnership throughout the film as they try to recover from a robbery that leaves them five thousand dollars deep in the Chechens pockets. Hardy’s lovable fool and Gandolfini’s sharp wit lighten the often intense and hyper-realistic film which includes moments of graphic violence. It is Gandolfini, however, that stunningly depicts how dangerous a man can be when driven to desperation. His character has been hardened by years of oppression from the Chechens and the strain of supporting an invalid father in a nursing home. The result is a paranoid tough guy prepared to do what is necessary to regain any semblance of manhood.
Hardy’s character, in contrast, appears naive to the severity of the bar’s situation while being further softened when he meets a potential love interest and a pit bull pup in the same night. Actress Noomi Rapace (Sweden’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) plays Nadia, a recovering addict who helps Bob care for the stray dog he finds outside her home. Rapace’s depiction of a women broken by her past but unwilling to give up is inspiring as she attempts an honest life in a dishonest city. Bob and Nadia refreshingly do not fall immediately in love and instead spend the film developing an actual friendship. Although the squeaking puppy quickly steals any scene it appears in away from the human cast.
The Drop interestingly does not paint its main characters as being ying or yang. Instead they are capable of both violence and compassion as is subtly shown through scenes involving family, friends and pets. There are also only select moments when the audience is explicitly told a key point in the plot. Most major pieces of information are written into actions and spread across multiple conversations, keeping the audience engaged in trying to figure out how the film will end. The unique, intriguing storyline is no doubt thanks to author Dennis Lehane moonlighting as the screenplay writer, allowing the movie to retain literary elements such as striking character development and nervous tension building.
The Drop presents audiences with a different class of characters played by highly talented actors who get down to the essence of those individuals who stand above the street scum but below the head family. Hardy, Gandolfini and Rapace are mesmerizing as they struggle with finding safety and peace of mind in the harsh world of organized crime. To miss out on this cinematic insight into an unknown part of illegitimate business would be to pass over the most original mob story in years.