Film Review: The Drop (★★★)

dropI think at this point, you know when something comes from the world of writer Dennis LeHane. With The Drop, not only has it been adapted from one of his stories, it was actually written by LeHane himself. Featuring an incredible atmosphere and mood as well as a top-notch performance by Tom Hardy, not to mention an adorable puppy, this has echoes of Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone (which is based on a LeHane novel) and Warrior (in terms of Hardy’s work). Director Michaël R. Roskam creates a Brooklyn that you’d be forgiven for mistaking for Boston, but it’s not an accident…this is supposed to feel like a cinematic rough and tumble place. Aside from the generic title (I much preferred when it was called “Animal Rescue”), everyone involved does a lot of things right. From Hardy’s turn to the supporting performance of the late James Gandolfini, this is a somber yet compelling film. Though it never comes close to reaching the heights of Affleck’s movies (especially The Town, which this new title and poster sort of want to emulate), this is a flick well worth seeing. I don’t think it’s quite on the level of a true Oscar contender, but it’s just a quality September offering. The Drop is one to definitely check out.

Bob Saginowski (Hardy) tries to live a simple existence. He keeps quiet at the place he tends bar at. He sees a lot, but says very little. This is a quality his boss Cousin Marv (Gandolfini) appreciates, especially since the bar he owns is not really the bar he owns. The Russian mob has taken it over and left him a powerless figurehead, mainly there to keep up appearances. The place has become a “drop bar”, a place where the mob hides their money. Bob does his part and keeps his mouth shut. Staying on the sidelines becomes harder when two events shake up his life. One is a robbery of the bar that draws the interest and suspicions of a Detective Torres (John Ortiz), while the other is when Bob finds a beaten and abandoned puppy in a garbage can. He rescues it, along with the help of a woman named Nadia (Noomi Rapace) whose garbage the dog was found in. They slowly begin to bond, but just as quickly, a mysterious man (Matthias Schoenaerts) shows up, claiming to own the dog and have a history with Nadia. He seeks to extort Bob, but as we slowly learn, that could prove to be a mistake. Bob keeps a lot on the inside, but he might soon be forced to show why he’s decided to keep as quiet as he does. It’s the sort of story that you expect from LeHane, but it’s done in a way that never feels derivative or anything like that.

james-gandolfini-tom-hardy-the-dropThis is one of the better performances that I’ve seen from Tom Hardy to date. Aside from Warrior and maybe Bronson, this is as good as he’s been. Hardy has been excellent in things like Locke as well, but this is closer to his caged animal performance in Warrior, which I really appreciate. This is an internalized performance, and Hardy totally pulls it off. It’s just top-notch work. The sadly departed James Gandolfini is pretty good as well, though it’s admittedly the sort of work that he could do in his sleep. The supporting turns from the aforementioned John Ortiz, Noomi Rapace, and Matthias Schoenaerts are effective as well, though no one is really going to blow you away. The rest of the cast includes the likes of Ann Dowd, who’s always a pleasure to see on the screen, but it’s Hardy who leaves the most lasting impression. The character and the performance will stay with you.

Director Michaël R. Roskam drains the color from the screen, giving the proceedings the sort of bleakness that you’d expect from the story at hand. He never gets too flashy, content to just let the plot play out and the performances speak for themselves. Especially in the case of Hardy, it’s the right decision by Roskam. LeHane’s script is the best thing about The Drop to me, aside from Hardy. The combination of the mood he sets up and the way he gives Hardy just enough to do while keeping most things on the inside, it’s really impressive stuff. While the film doesn’t seem like an awards vehicle at all to me, I wouldn’t mind if LeHane got some degree of Best Adapted Screenplay consideration. The script is just so smart, I’d love to see a voting body reward that intelligence.

Overall, The Drop is the sort of fall movie that hints that the Oscar season is at hand. It won’t really contend for nominations, but it shows the up tic in cinematic quality that we’ll expect over the next few months. If you like Hardy or want to say goodbye to Gandolfini (this is his final performance), I think this is a must see for you. The flick is quality, plain and simple. Go check out The Drop and be prepared for a satisfying time at the movies.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!