UK Release Date: 14th November 2014
Runtime: 106 minutes
Director: Michaël R Roskam
Writer: Dennis Lehane
Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Ann Dowd
Synopsis: Chaos unfolds for a softly spoken bartender when his “drop bar” in Brooklyn is robbed and a stray dog turns up in a garbage can.
Between James Gandolfini’s work in The Drop and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s appearance in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, November was very much a month of posthumous performances at the movies. Both show the power of cinema to briefly bring people back from the dead to entertain us once again, which is something very special indeed.
Thankfully, The Drop – adapted by Shutter Island author Dennis Lehane from his own novel Animal Rescue – is more than just Gandolfini’s last work. It’s a gripping and absorbing thriller with a cast on top form.
Bob (Tom Hardy) serves drinks at Cousin Marv’s (Gandolfini) bar in Brooklyn, which is used as a “drop bar” to hold dirty money overnight. When the bar is robbed and Bob finds a beaten-up pitbull in the garbage can of a woman named Nadia (Noomi Rapace), things begin to spiral out of control. Bob soon finds himself mixing it up with a thorough police investigator (John Ortiz) and an intimidating petty crook (Matthias Schoenaerts).
| "That is life. That’s what it is. People, like me, coming along where you’re not looking."
Oscar-nominated director Michaël R Roskam (Bullhead) does a great job of infusing The Drop with a very traditional tone. This feels every inch a New York crime movie, which allows its more subversive side to look even more stark and interesting. This is a film more interested in tense squabbles over the ownership of a dog than in splattery shootouts.
At the centre of it all is a terrific performance from Tom Hardy. His character is a man with great physicality, but few words. He is a Brando-esque performer, careful to always portray the nuances lurking beneath the surface of his character’s psyche. There’s also a beautifully understated comedy to his performance that can easily go unnoticed on first viewing.
James Gandolfini’s supporting display is equally strong, bolstered by the late star’s hulking charisma. Noomi Rapace also does well with a slightly underwritten role, bringing genuine sensitivity to a palpably broken woman.
Alongside Hardy, though, the real star is Roskam behind the camera. He manages to bring real energy to what is quite a talky script from Lehane, who is far more accustomed to the page than the screen. The Drop uses a similar chilly aesthetic to this year’s A Most Wanted Man, but suffers from none of the stiffness that plagued that film. Roskam has a way of elevating the action that will stand him in good stead as a thriller director.
| "I had something once. I was respected. I was feared."
By the time the narrative screws begin to turn, The Drop has cemented itself as a genuinely thrilling crime movie. It doesn’t over-explain the final plot developments and, as with the rest of the film, prefers to let the actors’ performances do the talking.
That’s just the way it should be.
Pop or Poop?
As a goodbye to an acting great, The Drop is a very fitting tribute. James Gandolfini is at his best here, playing off a beautifully subtle display from surging star Tom Hardy.
There’s also real talent behind the camera, with Michaël R Roskam doing an excellent job of conveying Dennis Lehane’s vision on the big screen.
It feels literary and cinematic in equal measure, which is quite a remarkable feat.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.