A contemporary Greek tragedy about conflicted, violent masculinities.
The Drop. 2014. Dir. Michaël R. Roskam. Written by Dennis Lehane; based on his own short story “Animal Rescue”.
Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, and John Ortiz. 20th Century Fox.
Rated 14A. 106 minutes.
The Drop is Michaël R. Roskam’s first American film. He’s most recently come from directing the Oscar nominated Belgian crime thriller Bullhead (side note: that film is actually my number one of all-time; it is incredible, dark, and has a couple really great performances. I’ll have to do a review soon, the Blu ray is also irresistible). The Drop is a slow burn thriller. It moves quietly from one moment to the next to the pace of a brooding score by Marco Beltrami. Roskam sets up several plot points across an interesting set of characters in Brooklyn, New York, which eventually all lead back into one another.
The film stars Tom Hardy as Bob, a bartender who works for his cousin Marv (Gandolfini in his final screen performance). The bar, aptly titled Cousin Marv’s, runs under supervision of the mob, and at times is the drop point for all of Brooklyn’s dirty money; a time they never know until just before the titular drop. The Drop‘s story commences once the bar is robbed by masked assailants. Both Bob and Marv now find themselves worrying about where they’ll come up with the mob’s stolen money, or if they can track down the thieves. However, not all is as it seems.
Roskam has a unique ability where he navigates an assortment of characters, often with their own little stories aside from the plot’s focus, and ties everything back together seamlessly. The film could simply be about mobsters and robbers. Instead it transcends the typical generic plot of such movies.
For instance, Bob becomes involved with a woman (Rapace) after finding a badly injured pitbull puppy in her trash, which at first seems unrelated to the film’s main focus, but later serves as a way of tying together multiple story lines.
Speaking of which, Rapace is an actress whom I really admire. She is incredible. Ever since the original Dragon Tattoo plus the following sequels I’ve thought she’s a great talent. Here she has a decent role, and plays it well enough. Although she is better served in a stronger female role, she does a great job. The role itself isn’t bad; it works for where the movies goes. Rapace herself is a strong female type, and I simply like to see more from her than what The Drop provides. Still, she and Hardy have chemistry while they’re onscreen together, I love her anyways, so it doesn’t take away from the movie whatsoever.
It doesn’t hurt that this film is also based on the story “Animal Rescue” by writer Dennis Lehane, author of such other novels-turned-films as Mystic River, Gone, Baby, Gone, and Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Mark Ruffalo.
Often, as it does in this movie, it helps when the script adaptation of a novel is also penned by the author of said novel. With Lehane’s tight storytelling and the way in which Roskam presents and navigates the material, the film is incredibly tense. On top of all that the acting, specifically from James Gandolfini, Tom Hardy, and Matthias Schoenaerts who each give a wonderfully subtle performance, makes everything work so well.
Though a little less dark than Lehane’s other stories, The Drop is still gritty and has a lot of edge. It’s more character study than anything else. Hardy’s character is a mumbling bartender who turns out to be more than meets the eye. Gandolfini gives a powerful performance to counterbalance his most well- known character Tony Soprano; here he is a broken man, once respected and now looked at as a joke. Schoenaerts, who previously starred in Roskam’s Bullhead, in particular becomes his character, a lowlife thug who is mostly talk, and sucks you into believing he is tough as he acts until the final few scenes.
I highly recommend The Drop. Regardless if you enjoyed any of the other films adapted from Lehane’s work, this one stands on its own. There are equal amounts of drama and crime thriller mixed together here, enough to please anybody particular to either genre over the other. What makes this worth seeing is the acting and writing, as well as how Roskam, a European director, weaves it all together in a fascinating way not often presented in (not all of them but) a lot of American crime thrillers.