Dennis Lehane. Just some of his film adaptations include Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and a great read removed from the crime genre, Shutter Island. Back to basics, Lehane turned his short story 'Animal Rescue' into a feature length screenplay for 2014's The Drop. Remember it? Not many people have even heard of it.
Working at his cousin's bar in a beat-up Brooklyn neighborhood, Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) lives a quiet, peaceful life, a self-imposed quiet, peaceful life. He lives by himself in the house he grew up in, goes to the same church service each day and tends bar for Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), a former small-time mobster now trying to scrape by. One day walking home from the bar, Bob hears wimpering from a closed garbage can and finds a bloodied, beaten pit bull puppy inside. He meets the owner of the garbage cans, Nadia (Noomi Rapace), and agrees to take care of the puppy until a better alternative comes along for both Bob and the displaced dog. As for the bar, it's not your ordinary bar. It is a drop bar where money carriers working for the Chechen mafia can drop off their gambling money, all of it piling up in a safe before being picked up. That's the set-up at least...until two low-level hoods walk in one night brandishing shotguns and looking for all the money they can find.
If there's a relative complaint to make about this movie...well, it's not necessarily the fault of 'Drop' itself. The issue more is that crime budgets seem to be hitting theaters at an all-time high, and most of them star Liam Neeson. I kid! I kid! I love Liam Neeson...but it's true. From Belgian director Michael Roskam, 'Drop' is an excellent flick featuring an interesting cast, well-told story and a generally somber, moody outlook on life. Calling it 'familiar' isn't necessarily accurate, but this isn't a film that breaks a ton of new ground. Don't get me wrong -- I'm giving it an easy recommendation -- but don't expect anything world-shaking.
None of this is a huge, deal-breaking criticism. I enjoyed the movie a lot and read Lehane's fleshed-out story too that was released as a novel (check it out HERE). Like the best crime thrillers, you feel thrust into this world Lehane's screenplay/story has created. It's a run-down neighborhood in Brooklyn with crime and crooks around every corner. The movie clearly does not have the most positive outlook on life. It rests on the assumption that people are generally pretty nasty, always looking out for themselves no matter the impact on others. Visually, the movie looks crowded, even claustrophobic, with scenes often shot in deep focus. It works. You feel like you're part of the scene. It is a bleak, gritty world, composer Marco Beltrami turning in a solid, mood-setting score. This is a lower middle class world, and there's nothing flashy about it.
Tom Hardy is fast becoming untouchable in my eyes. The guy finds something new with each new role, some new spin or new energy. Reading Lehane's story and knowing Hardy played the Bob character, I was intrigued, but curious in a good way. Hardy manages to make the part his own including an accent that I just can't place! This is one interesting main character. His Bob minds his own business and blends in with the scenery. Something from his past clearly hangs over his head, but we don't find out what until late. The most accurate thing I can come up with is that Hardy delivers a very human performance. Not necessarily sympathetic, but VERY human. Some little touches, some physical awkwardness, his quiet conversations, they all add up to make this a great lead character. As for Hardy, I can't wait to see what he does in the upcoming Mad Max reboot.
Leading the rest of the cast, Gandolfini is his imposing, intimidating self as Cousin Marv, the bar owner who holds quite a lot of resentment over how he lost total control of the bar. Gandolfini tragically passed away before the film was released so this was the actor's last film appearance, and while it isn't flashy, it's a key, solid supporting part. In a role that reminded me somewhat of her part in Dead Man Down, Rapace does a good job as the tortured, beaten-down woman. I think she's an above average actress, but with the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, she's getting typecast a lot in that wounded woman character. There's also key parts for Matthias Schoenaerts as Eric Deeds, an unbalanced local man who's a threat to all around him, and John Ortiz as Detective Torres, an investigating officer in the robbery.
So, yeah, things feel a tad familiar at times. Along with Hardy's lead performance though, the strongest aspect of 'Drop' is its mystery. You don't always know where it is going. We meet a lot of characters, a lot of situations, and though they may seem unrelated....well, they be related. If you find the story to be a touch frustrating -- it does feel like it is meandering at times -- my biggest recommendation is that you should definitely stick with it. There is a genuine twist that works so, so well in the finale because it's just there. It isn't meant to confuse or trick you, but IT WORKS. A highly recommended flick. It wasn't in theaters long and didn't make much money, but 'Drop' is definitely worth catching up with.
The Drop (2014): ***/****