Director: Michaël Roskam
Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthia Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Ann Dowd, James Frecheville
Release Date: September 12th, 2014
“I just tend the bar, pharm ” states the superficially timid Bob (Tom Hardy) in the new thriller The Drop. The bar he’s referring to though is much more than a neighborhood establishment. It’s a place that regulars rely on for drinks after work, an older woman clings to despite not having the money to pay and it’s a bar that is regularly used to transfer illegal money from one party to another under the watchful eye of Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), the bar’s vengeful manager and former owner.
But Bob— he just tends the bar.
The crime drama is written by Dennis Lehane, the author of the short story (Animal Rescue) that inspired it and the novelist whose work was previously adapted to the big screen in movies like Gone Baby Gone (2007) and Mystic River (2003). If you’re a fan of those films, you should know what you’re getting into here.
Bob is a tough but downbeat character who begrudgingly adopts a puppy— found disregarded in the trash— early on. When he realizes that it’s a pitbull (he originally thought it was a boxer), he notes that pitbulls are dangerous animals but eventually accepts it into his home at the insistence of Nadia (Naomi Rapace), a scarred local who advises him on taking care of a pet.
Both Bob and Nadia have cold exteriors but exist quietly in a dangerous neighborhood where violence and crime are rampant.
Making his last cinematic appearance, Gandolfini is perfectly cast as an aging thug whose role in the underworld is underestimated by the men who have seized control of his bar (an ironic choice considering his previous work as Tony Soprano). Marv, Bob’s cousin, longs for the days when men respected and feared him (“At least I had something once,” he says).
A robbery of the bar early on sets the action in motion. Two masked thugs walk into the bar and steal five thousand dollars from Bob and Marv. The money doesn’t belong to the duo but the men who use the bar for money laundering want their cash returned and hold Bob and Marv responsible. What starts as a quick robbery ultimately leads to a path of held resentments and unspeakable violence. As is often the case with Lehane’s stories, many of the characters operate under a dark cloud and it’s hard to figure out which of them can be trusted.
Hardy, once again, shows off his great talent for playing a character whose hard exterior hides a more nuanced personality. Much like his characters in Locke (2014) and Warrior (2011), this is a character whose feelings are far more complicated than they appear on the surface. His work opposite the late Gandolfini is excellent here alongside the scenes he shares with John Ortiz, who appears as a detective investigating the robbery.
Some of the plot twists strain credibility including a secondary plot about Nadia’s previous engagement with a local thug named Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) but overall, this is a crime drama that succeeds far better than it should. From the bar’s shady but realistic atmosphere to the threat of violence that casts a shadow over every scene, this is a crime drama that delivers great performances (particularly from Hardy) and a story that envelops audiences into its web.
Review by: John Hanlon