If you see a gun in the first act of a movie, it must go off in the third. I’m paraphrasing there, The Drop does in fact show you a gun in the first act – more than one, actually – and, from there, the movie moves implacably to its inevitable, yet not quite expected end.
Bob (Tom Hardy) tends bar at Cousin Marv’s – a low end bar in a low end Brooklyn bar that, we learn, is a drop for a Chechen crime syndicate. The opening sequence shows us Bob at work, while the bar’s former owner, Marv (James Gandolfini) sits in a corner and quietly drinks. Bob’s voice dutifully informs us what, exactly a drop is – a bar that is used to store a day’s take from a criminal organization’s various operations; it’s one of a number of places that might be used – selected completely at random.
On the way home one morning after work, Bob finds a badly beaten pit bull puppy in a garbage can – which leads to his meeting Nadia (Noomi Rapace) and puts him in the sights of her ex-boyfriend (who put the pup in her garbage deliberately), a thug named Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) who’s spent time in a mental institution.
Nadia helps Bob pick out supplies for the pup, whom he names Rocco (Nadia persuades him that Mike is not a good name for a dog). Not long after, a couple of criminally stupid guys rob the bar – it’s not a drop night, but the Chechens are still angry and demand that Bob and Marv find the robbers.
A police detective named Torres (John Ortiz), investigates the bar robbery and recognizes Bob from church – they’ve been attending mass at the same local church for years. The disappearance of a bar regular years ago comes up in conversation. Bob makes a slip when questioned, leading to horrific consequences.
Hardy and Gandolfini are so low key and natural that we find ourselves worrying about the slightly slow Bob and waiting for Marv to move beyond resignation to violence. In both cases, the movie plays with our expectations in, yes, unexpected ways. Both turn in career performances.
Schoenaerts’ Deeds, on the other hand, comes across as nuts from the first moment we see him, while Rapace’s Nadia is someone who has been hurt and is struggling to not let that affect her basic warmth and humanity. Her initial confrontation with Bob leads in one of the sweeter relationships in a neo-noir film.
Written by Dennis Lehane (based on his short story Animal Rescue) and directed by Michaël R. Roskam, The Drop is a curious crime movie. It is not action-packed, moving in a deliberate, slightly loose manner, building on character moments and the threat of violence.
Between the dark cinematography by Nicholas Karakatsanis, the subtle score by Marco Beltrami and Ralph Keunen, and the very almost invisible editing of Christopher Tellefsen, The Drop develops a slightly off kilter unease and solidifies into deep, full tension.
If you’re looking for a dark, twisty, deeply nuanced crime film, you should love The Drop. It’s a fine final film for Gandolfini – to whom the production is dedicated. It also solidifies Tom Hardy as both an actor and a star.
Final Grade: A
Photos courtesy of Fox Searchlight