by / November 13th, 2014 /

The Drop

Review by on November 13th, 2014

 3/5 Rating

Director: Michaël R. Roskom
Cast: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaert and John Ortiz 
Certificate: 15a
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Date: November 14th

Cousin Marv’s is one of the many bar in a neighbourhood in Brooklyn that operates as a drop bar, where criminals stash their money. The bar is owned by a Chechen mob but is managed by its former owner, the eponymous Marv (James Gandolfini). When asked by Nadia (Noomi Rapace) whether he is part of that life, the soft-spoken Bob (Tom Hardy) replies, “I just tend bar.” As the film progresses however, we start to think that perhaps there is a lot more to Bob than meets the eye, that perhaps there is a secret in his past that might come to light, particularly after the bar has been robbed in what was perhaps an inside job.

Adapted by Dennis Lehane from his own short story Animal Rescue and helmed by Belgium director Michael R. Roskam, who received an Oscar nod for his fantastic Flemish crime drama Bullhead, The Drop is less of a mob film but rather an intense character study centring on perceptions and actions in the past. For Marv, he looks to the past with resentment for how he ended up. “I was respected. I was feared”, he tells Bob, lamenting on his lowly status now as a has-been, as a pawn for more powerful and more feared people.

As for Bob, his past transgressions start to return, triggered by the cautious relationship he shares with Nadia. Discovering a badly beaten pit bull puppy dumped in one of Nadia’s rubbish bins, Bob, with her help, decides to take care of him. This however puts him into conflict with a mentally unstable thug named Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), Nadia’s ex who claims to be the owner of the dog. Eric’s presence starts to unravel a secret from Bob’s past, an event that has been guiltily hanging over for years now.

The centrepiece of the film is the performance of Tom Hardy, who gives a nuanced and studied realisation of the character. For most of the film’s running time you’re not quite sure what to make of Bob. At times he can appear to be a kindly soul, buying drinks for an old lady at the bar, while at other times the calm manner in which he deposes of a severed arm found outside the bar more than implies a darker side. Hardy keeps the character interesting and engaging, even when being overpowered by others. He receives strong support of Rapace, who does well to rise above an underwritten role, and Schoenaerts remains a strong screen presence despite the lack of depth given to Eric compared to the roles he played in Bullhead and Rust and Bone.

Special mention must also go to James Gandolfini in his last screen role, showing again how much his talent is going to be missed. The role of Marv is not a million miles away from the various other heavies that he has played over the years, but Gandolfini, as he usually did, brings a little more to the role, adding depth and character with the smallest of gestures.

So for all its acting and characterisation, why then does The Drop somewhat disappoint? It is most likely down to its third act, with its final confrontation and revels that never finds the spark that it should. There is also the subplot involving a detective (John Ortiz) who is investigating the robbery of the bar that never really has any pay off. There are also attempts to have the theme of Catholic guilt running underneath the film, Bob attends Mass but never receives Holy Communion, that ends up just feeling Scorsese-lite.

It is a shame that The Drop doesn’t quite work as whole as there is plenty in it that do,;Hardy’s central performance, its reliance on character to push the film. Yet, it remains a highly respectful drama that doesn’t leave as much of an impact as it should.