The Drop (2014) – Review

Directed by Michaël R. Roskam
Written by Dennis Lehane
Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini
Bob Saginowski finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.


Dennis Lehane adapts his own short story ‘Animal Rescue’ here and if you’re familiar with his writing for the big screen, you won’t experience much here that you’re not really expecting already. His impressive back catalogue includes the likes of Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and one of my personal favourites at the time, Shutter Island, and the tension here is almost as palpable as most of his other work, introducing the audience to weathered, hard-boiled, inner-city characters that are, for the most part, well rounded and believable.

A fitting tribute? Well, perhaps not fitting so much as acceptable and no great shame on his person, but this could have been much worse. As an example of acting prowess, the audience is mostly well served. I am still to be convinced that Noomi Rapace can do anything effectively other than silently brood and burst into bouts of seemingly uncontrolled violence (a la ‘The Girl With’ series). Her stabs at comedy, passion and science-fiction have all left audiences a little underwhelmed, especially with the likes of Prometheus requiring a credible, convincing new female lead. 
Here, to be fair, she is playing mostly third fiddle to an admittedly formidable two-hander from the late James Gandolfini in his final performance opposite the continuing man of the moment, Tom Hardy. Pitched as a gritty crime drama, The Drop features its main locale as Cousin Marv’s bar (Marv being Gandolfini, as you might expect) at which Hardy is playing the part of Bob, the bartender.  Despite perception to the contrary, the bar is not in fact owned by Marv (at least not anymore) but by a Chechen crime boss who bought it from Marv when times were tough, keeping the staff on.
 

When Bob (Hardy) walks past a neighbours’ wheelie-bin, he hears a whimpering from inside. Upon investigation, he discovers a puppy that has apparently been abandoned. The neighbour in question is Noomi Rapace, who is equally surprised to find the dog in her trash, and a relationship between the two of them is struck over the rescue and subsequent care of the animal.  Interspersed with the blossoming relationship that these two seemingly lonely people forge is Bob’s experience at the bar, known in criminal circles as a ‘drop’. Defined as a location where money is left from various illegal activities throughout the day. The Drop’s location is never the same two days in a row and is a closely guarded secret until the point at which it is chosen as the point of deposit of monies from whatever nefarious dealings have taken place that day.

Given its title, you may expect the majority of the running time to feature the events at the bar, but this doesn’t actually turn out to be the case, with Lehane keen to flex his writing skills in the direction of emotional attachment, both to human and animal. This is a recurring theme throughout the project and whilst impressive, it may not be the film that many will have turned up to watch, expecting maybe more menace and malice than is actually in evidence. It is certainly no less worthy for this fact and there are some excellent performances and the direction is sound if not altogether unique, but due to the two stories running in parallel and rarely meeting, this perhaps detracts from completely appreciating both in their own right.
Overall, a decent story with an average script is made worthy by performances that make this a legitimate hour and a half of entertainment. It rarely soars, but does the legacy of Gandolfini no real harm and for those of the cast still breathing, its maybe not quite the classic that many promised or anticipated, but certainly no turkey either. Worth one viewing, certainly, but you’re unlikely to re-visit this for good reason.

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