Director: Michaël R. Roskam
Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, and Noomi Rapace.
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
The Drop joins a long list of films adapted from Dennis Lehane texts, with Lehane the screenwriter on this film. However it is nowhere near as good as such adaptations as Ben Affleck’s, ‘Gone Baby Gone’, or Martin Scorsese’s, ‘Shutter Island’ The plot focuses on Cousin Marv’s Bar in Brooklyn, which is one of many ‘drop’ bars used to deposit dirty money. Marv (James Gandolfini) used to run a crew with his cousin Bob (Tom Hardy) however, in the words of Bob, they flinched and now their bar, as well as the local criminal operations, are under the control of a man called Chovka. When their bar is robbed, Bob and Marv must get Chovka his money back, with their role in the robbery and other criminal activity being investigated by a local detective (John Ortiz) Meanwhile, and most importantly, Bob finds a beaten dog and a beaten woman (Noomi Rapace) leading him on a collision course with Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) a man who takes credit for the murder of a man who was last seen at Bob’s bar.
Really The Drop should have been called, The Dog, or Animal Rescue (The title of the short story upon which this is based) For large stretches of this film, it truly is about the beaten dog Bob finds and his efforts to care for it, connecting with the character of Nadia along the way. However as far as animals driving plot goes, this dog doesn’t stand up to the cat from Inside Llewyn Davis. While such a focus helps create an endearing character in regards to Bob Saginowski, it is never quite as affecting or charming as the film wants it to be. Tom Hardy is one of my favourite actors and once again disappears into the role here with another masterful adoption of an accent. However his character, for a reason, has his guard up, and it never really feels like Tom Hardy is doing anything else other than the strong, silent type with a mysterious past performance. Therefore there is no real establishment of a relationship between him and Noomi Rapace, which the whole film ultimately hinges on.
What I ultimately discovered deep into the film, was its many similarities to Drive, a crushing comparison for The Drop. Tom Hardy plays as mentioned, the strong, silent type with a mysterious and violent past. He is still involved criminally yet in a reduced and very specific role, ‘I just tend the bar’ He is drawn into a relationship with a fragile woman whose former boyfriend leads a life of crime and who resurfaces to complicate things for our protagonist. I won’t go further so as to not spoil Drive, but the similarities don’t end there. It is this realization however, that highlights just how dull, dry, and ultimately safe The Drop is. Drive is a film that covers very similar narrative and thematic territory, yet does so in a way that is much more interesting, stylish, energetic, and dark, even though it is telling a story that is no less unoriginal or generic.
The film is well acted however, and as mentioned Tom Hardy continues to demonstrate why he is one of the finest actors working today. James Gandolfini plays what is essentially Tony Soprano twenty years on if he’d never really made it. Whilst certainly not a bad performance it is one that doesn’t speak for Gandolfini’s talent, with his brief moments of comedy making me once again lament Hollywood’s missed opportunity in not utilizing him in more comedies after The Sopranos, with films like In The Loop suggesting how Gandolfini could have re-invented himself, rather than being typecast. The Sopranos was a show that was very darkly comic and had me laughing much more than many comedies. A move into comedy films would have been both unexpected yet a perfect and natural progression for him. Meanwhile Noomi Rapace isn’t given much to do other than be the love interest and damsel in distress, while the John Ortiz role is one, which in retrospect, could have been cut out entirely.
As the film reaches its climax it revs up slightly but never quite pays off or delivers on its potential. It also then proceeds to squander two endings, which would have been much darker and more powerful than the one we ultimately received. A happy ending, which felt like an undeserved cop-out, and highlighted the deficiencies in the film’s attempt to create a meaningful relationship between the Hardy and Rapace characters.
Ultimately, The Drop is well acted, particularly by Hardy, and is not without its effective moments. However it is a rather dull and dry experience, which has been done much better elsewhere.