The Drop. The title of new crime drama from director Michaël R. Roskam, is referring to a “drop bar” – a bar where illegal money discreetly changes hands. The film’s hero, Bob (played by Tom Hardy), is a bartender at one of these “drop bars”, figure-headed by Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini’s final role), but really run by a Chechen gang. Bob and Marv are put in a tight spot when a robbery takes place at the bar, and an investigation starts digging into the neighbourhood’s past.
There’s a lot that’s familiar about The Drop: a lonely protagonist trying to go straight in a crime-riddled world, finding his redemption in a cute dog and a cute girl (with a meddlesome ex-boyfriend).
But there is also a lot to recommend The Drop, not least its solid cast. Noomi Rapace impresses as love interest Nadia, whilst James Gandolfini’s final performance, though familiar to his others, is a good one, and we see beyond Cousin Marv’s bravado to the terrified man beneath. However, it’s Tom Hardy and the gradual uncovering of what’s beneath his character’s good guy persona that steal the show. Hardy’s deceptive performance of a complicated but sympathetic character grounds the film and makes it stand out from other similarly-themed dramas. Dennis Lehane’s dark and intelligent script, based on his own short story Animal Rescue, also gives the film an edge.
The film isn’t without flaws: the plot often seems messy, and though we are informed that Cousin Marv is a “desperate” man, that doesn’t really explain the randomness of some of his actions, and it is hard to pin down exactly what he is trying to achieve. Whilst the first half has us wondering what’s different about this film in comparison with any other crime drama, the second half picks up the pace, and leads us to an explosive final confrontation.
The Drop takes a while to find its feet, but when it does, it is gripping, moody and gives us insight into interesting and complicated characters. And it also involves an incredibly adorable puppy. Over all, there’s a lot to like.