By Jonathon Reilly
Director: Michael Roskam
Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, John Ortiz, Matthias Schoenaerts.
As an American crime thriller set in a run-down neighbourhood, The Drop certainly breaks the stereotypical mould. It is with the aid of a remarkably talented cast – including the late, great James Gandolfini in his final on-screen appearance – that Belgian director Michael Roskam’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s “Animal Rescue” novel takes its audience on a continuous series of plot twists making it an utterly compelling watch and, without a doubt, one of this year’s must-see movies.
The film centres on the taciturn yet captivating lonely bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) who finds himself embroiled in trouble beyond his control whilst working at his cousin Marv’s (Gandolfini) eponymously-titled bar. The venue serves as a ‘drop bar’ that launders money for the callous Chechen gangsters who own the property and come into deposit their ill-gotten gains on any given night. Marv’s loss of control over his gambling debts has left him to rue the fact the Chechens now control the Brooklyn neighbourhood he once ruled.
The action really begins to get under way when the bar is robbed on a ‘non-drop’ evening by masked gunmen. The $5,000 they manage to get inevitably attracts the attention of its fearsome mobster owners, as well as that of a local cop, Detective Torres (John Ortiz), who has been keeping a close eye on the premises in connection with an old case involving the disappearance of one of its regular customers.
Cue a number of heart-racing plot twists which alter the storyline to an extent that throws this movie way off the old beaten track of a typical crime drama.
The most notable arrives at the beginning of the film when church-going Bob discovers and rescues a wounded pit-bull puppy, abandoned outside the house of an immigrant waitress named Nadia (Noomi Rapace). A blossoming relationship and crucial dynamic of the film is then set in motion as Bob asks her to help with the looking after of his canine co-star whom they name Rocco.
However, it does not take long before the affection Bob has for both his new pet and potential love interest Nadia begins to send him on a slippery slope down into the murky criminal underworld he tries to maintain a safe distance from.
Another spanner thrown into the works comes in the curious shape of Eric Deeds, often seen following and confronting Bob over his pet pooch. Eric claims to be the suspect responsible for the missing-persons case engulfing the neighbourhood and his mere presence on screen immediately accelerates the pace of the action. Sporting a shell suit and a woollen hat, there is a sense that anything could happen, particularly violence. Eric’s enigmatic nature forces the viewer to constantly question his intentions making for a number of gripping scenes with Bob, most notably when he turns up at the bartender’s front door unannounced.
Unlike many crime thrillers where violence can be overused to the extent that it gets in the road of the plot, the engaging quality of The Drop thankfully knows where to draw the line. This allows for more time to be spent on developing the aspects of the film that are central to the main storyline. A large portion of credit must also go to Hardy for the fervour with which he played his part as the unassuming bartender. Twinned with Hardy’s outstanding performance is the unusual but extremely effective use of Rocco the pit-bull whose role helps to highlight the dilemma Bob finds himself in as he fights to survive in this dog-eat-dog community.