Movie Review: The Drop

The Drop (2014)
106 minutes
Rated – R
Directed by Michael R. Roskam
Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace

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Grade: B+

The Drop is James Gandolfini’s final role as an actor before he passed away. It was impossible to not think about that during the movie and I found myself scrutinizing his every word in this mob-thriller set in Brooklyn. Gandolfini is no rookie when it comes to mob stories, but he’s not at the top of the food chain in The Drop. He once was, but now works at a bar (that he used to own) and does what he’s told. Even though Gandolfini isn’t the lead character, he becomes arguably the most important one.

This is also the screenwriting debut of Dennis Lehane, who has written the novels of a handful brilliant movies (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island). Like all of these stories, there is a toughness and a mystery surrounding every character. What’s so entertaining about The Drop is that you’re never quite certain about how things are going to end. You have an idea, because after all it’s a mob flick, but you’re never quite certain. This is all because of Lehane.

Tom Hardy leads this film as Bob Saginowski. He works at Cousin Marv’s, a dive bar that is a drop site for some scary and powerful Chechen gangsters. His cousin is Marv (Gandolfini), a man who Bob looks up to and one that he respects. But Bob has a secret that he conceals. He’s a soft-spoken and caring man, not one that you would expect to bartend at a drop location. But only Marv knows what he’s truly capable of.

If Tom Hardy’s Bob wasn’t likable enough, there’s a story-line put in place where Bob rescues a beaten puppy out of a trash can, starts talking to a battered woman (Noomi Rapace) and does everything in his power to rescue the both of them from Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts), a dangerous criminal. But this becomes more and more challenging when the bar is robbed at gunpoint after a drop night. $5,000 is stolen and the Chechen men warn Bob and Marv that they’re responsible for the money.

The film does a great job at establishing the main characters and exploring the risky business they all find themselves in. There is a plot that involves a detective investigating the robbery, along with the disappearance of a man that Eric has taken credit for, but this all feels unnecessary and a distraction from the real story. Some scenes also feel a bit rushed, but with a run-time less than two hours it’s assumed that some scenes were cut short during the final edits.

Hardy has quietly become one of the better actors in the industry the past few years. He hits all the right notes as Bob Saginwoski. He’s always calm and collected no matter what falls at his feet. Whether or not we’re supposed to be soothed or threatened is up to you. What’s refreshing about the suspense that’s built up from The Drop is that it’s a slow-burn, old school style of film-making. There aren’t any big explosions nor are there any scenes where hundreds of shots are fired in the middle of a crowded street. It’s all about the build up in The Drop that leads to Super Bowl day. If you ask me, I’ll take this story about the bottom-feeders chaperoning a drop site over Tony Montana snorting a mountain of cocaine any day.

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