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Review: The Drop (2014)

The Drop (2014)

Directed by: Michael R. Roskam

Premise: Based on a short story by Dennis Lehane. A mafia-owned tavern is robbed by mysterious gunmen and the bartender (Tom Hardy) and bar manager (James Gandolfini) are on the hook for the stolen money. 

What Works: The Drop was based on a short story by Dennis Lehane, whose work had also been the inspiration for films like Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone. Lehane’s stories are usually populated with people involved in the criminal underworld and who face matters of integrity and honor. The Drop is consistent with these other titles and it features many of the same kinds of characters and situations. Like the better adaptations of Lehane’s work, The Drop has a lot of authenticity and a concrete sense of place. The streets, alleyways, and taverns of the movie don’t feel like a movie set and possess the appropriate atmosphere. The film is shot very well by cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis and the imagery recalls early Martin Scorsese films like Mean Streets. The cast of The Drop includes the late James Gandolfini in his last role in a feature film. This is a fitting send off for the actor best known for playing tough east coast characters. The role does not require Gandolfini to stretch his repertoire the way he did in his penultimate feature performance in Enough Said but he is in familiar territory here and Gandolfini is able to match his imposing presence with hints of vulnerability. The Drop is led by Tom Hardy and as usual the actor is terrific in the role. Hardy’s acting skills are reminiscent of actors like Gary Oldman and Daniel Day Lewis in that he has astounding range and an ability to fully inhabit his characters, radically changing his voice and posture to fit the part. In The Drop, Hardy’s character recalls Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky, of all things. Like the title character of that film, Tom Hardy’s character in The Drop is a blue collar guy who isn’t highly educated and who treads on the rough side of the tracks but nevertheless has a good soul and tries to do the right thing. The parallel with Rocky is most apparent in the budding relationship between Tom Hardy’s bartender and a woman played by Noomi Rapace. Hardy’s character discovers an injured dog in her yard and the two of them begin a friendship that may lead to something more. Given the tone of this movie, the filmmakers wisely downplay the romance but the relationship between these two compares favorably with Rocky’s relationship Adrian.

What Doesn’t: Hollywood does not seem to know what to do with actress Noomi Rapace and her talents have been underutilized in other high profile movies like Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Dead Man Down. Rapace is underused yet again in The Drop. She does well in the role and her character possesses intelligence and a backstory that make her more than a love interest but this part is still below the talents Rapace displayed in the starring role of Lisabeth Salander in the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels. The very end of The Drop is also somewhat of a problem for the movie. The story has a lot of ins and outs, with various characters and interested parties connected to the happenings at the bar Among them is a subplot between Tom Hardy’s bartender and a police detective played by John Ortiz. This subplot applies additional pressure on the characters but it does not really go anywhere. The filmmakers resolve the complicated plot a little too neatly and even conclude the picture on an optimistic note. The hopefulness of the ending is welcome in part because so much of the movie is dark and violent but the grittiness of the film also makes the ending seem a little inconsistent with the rest of the movie.

Bottom Line: The Drop is a very well made crime thriller. The filmmakers combine violence and grit with an underlying sense of honor and good heartedness that mostly fits together and the picture features notable performances by Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini.

Episode: #509 (September 21, 2014)