A gritty little caper film, The Drop boasts another fantastic performance by Tom Hardy. The actor plays Bob, a bartender, who works at his cousin Marv’s (James Gandolfini) Brooklyn establishment. Bob is a quiet guy who explains in the opening sequence that a “drop bar” is a place where the city’s dirtiest money is held for collection. When two masked thugs rob Marv’s bar one night it is only the first step in a more elaborate crime to get the “drop” during Super Bowl Sunday.
Director Michaël Roskam, working from a screenplay by Dennis Lehane, (who adapted his short story “Animal Rescue”) builds the tension slowly. When Bob finds a dog in a trashcan belonging to Nadia (Noomi Rapace), he befriends her, but weird coincidences start happening. Eric Deeds (Matthias Shoenaerts) turns up, claiming the dog is his and he tries to extort money out of Bob. And while Nadia claims not to know Eric—who may have been involved in the disappearance of a man nearly ten years ago—there is something hinky about her story—and his.
The Drop also features a subplot involving Marv’s activities, which include him being squeezed for cash by the bar’s Chechen owners, a severed arm that turns up in a trash bag filled with cash, and a shady guy who asks Marv for directions that raises his suspicions.
Roskam, who helmed the Belgian Oscar nominee Bullhead, keeps a very cool tone with his intensely atmospheric film. In fact, The Drop set in a cold January and viewers might feel the chill as the characters try to stay one step ahead of trouble. The bars and houses have a burnished, lived in look and the authenticity serves the film well.
While there are a few surprises in store for the characters and the audience, there are, alas, only a few. Part of the film’s problem is that after a decent, intriguing set up, the filmmakers feel the need to connect all the dots. What starts out as a mysterious film, where viewers are not sure who to trust, soon becomes obvious and predictable.
And this tonal shift is a shame, because the film is best when it is subtle. Is Bob aware of what is happening around him? Or is he a quiet subversive fooling everyone? His relationship with Nadia never quite blossoms to romance. Is that deliberate, or does he suspect she is in cahoots with Eric? Hardy makes Bob’s poker-faced character fascinating to watch and decipher.
Unfortunately, Rapace is not as compelling as the possible femme fatale. The actress, who was sooo good in the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, seems miscast here.
The film also marks the last feature performance by Gandolfini. While the late actor is well suited to his role as a tough guy—he uses his expressions and body language well—his part is underwritten.
Regrettably, too much of the rest of The Drop is overwritten. The filmmakers spell out details where ambiguity would be better.
The Drop opens today in Philly area theaters.
Author: Gary M. Kramer
Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and film critic. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming book, Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Follow him on twitter @garymkramer.