The Drop

Posted by Joel Copling on September 11, 2014

There's nothing wrong with "The Drop," which is a pretty good film about pretty bad people, in any particular sense; it's just that those who watch a lot of movies will be able to foresee basically everything that happens in it. To utilize a cliche, the sum-total effect of the movie is more impressive than the variables that have been added together to arrive at its conclusion. Each of the characters fits into a specific type, and screenwriter Dennis Lehane (adapting his own short story, "Animal Rescue") never really lets them soar as individuals. Mark it up to the terrific ensemble and director Michael R. Roskam's sharp eye for milieu and tension as reasons the film pulls through.

Cousin Marv's is one of many "drop bars" in the Brooklyn area. "Drop bars" are safe places for dirty money from gangs, mobs, and--one can only presume--corrupt cops. Marv (the late James Gandolfini in his final lead role), for whom the bar is quite obviously named, seems to tolerate his position as owner of this bar, especially with such heightened stakes. Bartender Bob (Tom Hardy)--Marv's actual cousin, yes, with whom he shares a violent past--truly believes and says that he's out of the business of being a criminal. But when money belonging to a Chechan mob, led by Chovka (Michael Aronov), is robbed from Cousin Marv's, Bob's nerves are permanently wrecked (The severed arm of a colleague and the stolen, now-blood-drenched cash found in a bag only makes it worse).

It also doesn't help that Bob found a puppy pitbull dumped in the trash bin in someone's backyard. The dog is bloodied and beaten. He cares for it in alternating shifts with the owner of the house, Nadia (Noomi Rapace, mostly wasted in a damsel-in-distress role), in whose backyard the animal was dumped. The dog, though, has an owner: Nadia's dangerous ex-boyfriend, Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), around whom a series of sinister rumors revolves. He's said to be the murderer of a kid who disappeared a while back, and he wants his dog returned in exchange for payment. Obviously, there's gonna be Hell to pay when all of this resolves itself.

"The Drop" is two movies in one, until the finale brings them inexorably together, and the more interesting of the two is the less prevalent. It's fascinating the way these character maneuver through a criminal underworld that's out in the open, and Gandolfini is particularly savvy at playing Marv with opposing emotional drives (His sister, played by Ann Dowd, wants him to see his dying father; he longs for the days when he earned respect as a criminal). The other movie is the one involving the kidnapped pitbull, and even though Hardy gives his usual magnetic performance and Schoenaerts is as intimidating as they come, it's a storyline built around Rapace's character becoming whatever the screenplay asks of her. The resulting effect of these two halves is uneasy but, ultimately, good-enough.

Film Information

Tom Hardy (Bob), Noomi Rapace (Nadia), James Gandolfini (Cousin Marv), Matthias Schoenaerts (Eric Deeds), John Ortiz (Det. Torres), Michael Aronov (Chovka), Elizabeth Rodriguez (Det. Romsey), Ann Dowd (Dottie).

Directed by Michael R. Roskam and written by Dennis Lehane, based on the short story "Animal Rescue" by Lehane.

Rated R (violence, pervasive language).

106 minutes.

Released on September 12, 2014.