Dr. Donna Copeland’s
TOM HARDY JAMES GANDOLFINI
NOOMI RAPACE MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS
The collaboration of Bullhead director and author/screenwriter Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone) couldn’t be a better fit. While The Drop certainly has a special prestige about it since it's the final James Gandolfini film, it’s another masterful example of Tom Hardy (Lawless, Locke) and his pathway to greatness. Embedded in the same seedy, dark and brooding crime world as his previous films, Lehane’s characters here seem like distant relatives of the ones from previous films. Equally as suspenseful with the slow, building intensity and high stakes for the characters like Mystic River, The Drop is more focused on one particular corner instead of a vast, sprawling neighborhood.
“I’m just the bartender,” Bob (Hardy) says when questioned about his role in the crime world. In this part of New York, all of the dirty money gets dropped at a different bar each night; the bar owners are entrusted with keeping it safe until it’s collected. You never know when your bar will be chosen as the drop point, but when you are you gotta protect it. Bob’s cousin Marv (Gandolfini) used to own Marv’s Bar, but sold out to pay debts. “I had something once. I was respected. I was feared,” Marv says. Marv wants out of the city and out of the life, so he's hatching a plan to do just that regardless of whom he has to cross. “Are you doing something desperate? Something we can't clean up this time,” Bob asks.
Since Bronson in 2008 (a must see for all Hardy fans), the British actor has been a powerful force in the acting world, quickly ascending the ranks and in high demand thanks in part to Christopher Nolan casting him in Inception and as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Hardy, who has delivered award worthy performances in films like Warrior and this years Locke, continues to challenge himself as an actor with diverse roles that display his wide range of talent. Hardy seems to be on that Cate Blanchett path, where he seeks out the most challenging directors to cover any and all genres. His performance here is reminiscent of what Ryan Gosling did with Lars and the Real Girl. One thing Hardy is consistent with is restraint in the performance, whether on the page or just his own method; it’s that restraint which allows most of his characters to develop in unforgettable ways.
The performances certainly make The Drop worth your time, but it’s also a film with organic suspense. Director Michael R. Roskam uses his cinematographer from Bullhead again here, and the borrowed shot techniques from Scorsese crime films is noted and welcome. The suspense begins with the editing, long before we even get to the part of various characters making life threatening decisions. Never have I seen an animal play such a pivotal role in a crime thriller, but the pitbull pup only adds to the high stakes. The character building early on might be a little too slow for some viewers, yet like Bullhead, it’s all working towards a big pay-off.
Final Thought – Hardy continues to display masterful acting chops while Gandolfini’s career concludes on a high note.
By: Dustin Chase
The story in The Drop proceeds like a good thriller should: Tension is carried throughout, with bits of illumination gradually lighting the way. Bob (Tom Hardy) is the narrator speaking his mind, and in the beginning he describes the neighborhood where he and his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) operate a bar. He explains what a “drop” is, where money subtly changes hands in a pre-selected spot during the evening, after which, “no one” knows where it ends up. Bob is a low-key guy with strict morals who attends church and who rescues a pit bull left in a garbage can after it was severely beaten. The full dimension of his character is revealed very gradually across time. Nadia (Noomi Rapace) who lives nearby (and whose garbage can it is) sees him with the dog and offers to help, since he clearly has never had a dog before. He tries to get her to take it, but she says she can’t, so he is forced to himself and learn dog care. In the process, he develops a real attachment to the dog.
The plot then turns to the meat of the story, letting us in on all the double-dealings, the threats, and intimidation that will follow. At first, we get just glimpses of important figures, such as Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), Detective Torres (John Ortiz), Chovka (Michael Aranov), and Andre (Morgan Spector), and learn more about them across time. The screenwriter (Dennis Lehane – Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone) who based the script on one of his short stories (“Animal Rescue”) presents a riveting crime story leavened with occasional dashes of humor, as well as heart-tugging drama.
Belgian Director Michael Roskam (“Bullhead”) is expert in putting together tension-filled dramas, and he was active in recruiting a fine set of actors for The Drop who clearly relish their roles. When he was recruiting Tom Hardy, the actor said emphatically, “I know Bob”, and showed Roskam tattoos on his back which uncannily relate to the film (a pit bull, an angel, and a French saying that translates to “That’s it.”) These images will be identified to the viewer during the film. Rapace gives just the right amount of mysteriousness and withholding that could be cautiousness she uses after experiencing pain. But some of the humor of the film is in the interactions between Bob and Nadia—they just can’t seem to communicate easily with one another. Gandolfini’s performance is up to his usual standards, and resembles his work in the TV drama, The Sopranos. Schoenaerts, who was the star in Bullhead, is talented in sending shivers up your spine and likewise giving the impression that he is emerging from a troubled childhood.
Music by Marco Beltrami and Raf Kennen and cinematography by Nicholas Karakatsanis deftly capture the moods and colors of the film, and contribute to its sense of mystery and puzzlement.
Highly entertaining and not relaxing in the least.