As the summer movie season draws to a close, I look forward to better offerings in the fall. I’m optimistic about the films slated for release in the coming weeks, from Gone Girl to Kill the Messenger. I was disappointed with the summer selection, and it looks like studios are featuring some weightier movies in the next few months. The Drop’s trailer appeared promising, with multi-faceted Tom Hardy (Locke) alongside James Gandolfini (Enough Said) in his final film.
Writer David Lehane’s source material has given us some heavy, emotionally rich films like Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone, and the same melancholy, gritty undertones of the working class were present in The Drop. Lehane adapted the screenplay from one of his short stories, and the movie pulsated with moments of electricity, despite an overall quiet tone. Of course, in criminal parlance, a “drop” refers to a place where illegal money is exchanged for a criminal act, or “job.” Enter ordinary man Bog Saginawski (Hardy), a solitary guy whose low-level criminal activities belie a warm heart. He works at a neighborhood bar called Cousin Marv’s, owned by Gandolfini’s character in name only.
Marv’s bar doubles as a drop spot for the local mob, a no-nonsense group of Chechens who ousted him as owner a decade prior. He runs a tight ship, keeping Bob in line and reminding him of whose name is on the door. The movie opens with Bob narrating an overview of the way money changes hands in New York’s underworld, especially at night and especially at places like Marv’s. We watch as Bob discreetly receives mysterious brown envelopes from an assortment of crooks and hustlers; and it’s business as usual until two armed, masked men hold up the bar one night as Marv and Bob are closing.
The film follows the aftermath of the robbery, as Bob and Marv contend with the police and the mob. An interesting subplot emerges when Bob develops a friendship with a neighboring woman named Nadia (Noomi Rapace, Prometheus) after they discover an abused pit bull puppy. The adorable puppy was a recurring use of symbolism throughout the movie, representing the duality of the vicious breed and the innocence of a baby. Bob’s character somewhat mirrored the dog’s, as his simple, peaceful exterior obscured a more brutal survival instinct.
I was drawn in by the performances, and I’m beginning to think Hardy is incapable of a bad showing. His character does a 180, but the shift felt authentic rather than disingenuous. He had a fraternal chemistry with Gandolfini and plaintive tenderness with Rapace as they were threatened by a menacing ex-lover from her past.The film was suspenseful and effectively dramatic throughout, although it lagged here and there. Patient viewers will be rewarded in the final act, where the plot twists unexpectedly. The trailer is a bit misleading, so you should be forewarned that this is a definitely an “indie” movie with a subdued tone. It won’t make much of a splash at the box office, but The Drop is worth checking out. Grade: B