Review by-Jarrett Leahy
When a notorious Brooklyn “drop bar,” an establishment used to funnel and hide mob money until it is ready to be collected and transported., is robbed, Bob, the establishment’s longtime bartender, knows his nefarious bosses are not going to be too pleased. Wanting their money back, Chevka, the Chechen mob leader, informs Bob and Marv, the former bar owner, that they are now responsible for finding the missing money. The problem, however, is the robbery has caught the attention of an inquisitive police detective who begins delving into the neighborhood’s well-kept secrets. Bob now finds himself caught between the law and the underworld, as each gets closer to the true identity of those responsible for the robbery.
Originally assigned to Neil Burger before he backed out to make Divergent, The Drop is the second feature film of Belgian filmmaker Michael Roskam. Roskam found tremendous success when his debut film, Bullhead, was nominated for a 2011 Best Foreign Film Academy award. Penned by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), The Drop proves yet again the adage that a film’s third act can make or break the movie. For the first two-thirds of the film, Roskam slowly weaves a delicate crime tapestry, introducing a densely intertwined narrative filled with little, unexplained comments and shared looks, aiding in the film’s uneasy buildup. As the film reaches its boiling point, Roskam unleashes The Drop’s final ten minutes—a powerful culmination that highlights, explains, and put into context all that came before. I walked out of the theater enthralled, with an urgent desire to watch the film a second time, so I could pick up on moments missed or discounted.
Best known for his iconic role in the Sopranos, last year’s tragic death of James Gandolfini left quite the void in the acting world while giving The Drop the distinction of being his final film. Marv, Gandolfini’s character, is a former neighborhood gangster who is still bitter more than ten years after losing ownership of his beloved bar when the Chechen crime syndicate moved into Brooklyn. For an actor who built his career playing hoodlums, I found it quite fitting that Gandolfini’s last role would be of a washed-up, has been. Ever the professional, Gandolfini expertly captures the overwhelming frustration of a man who used to have it all. Abrasively conniving with delusions of past grandeur, you don’t know whether to loathe or root for this poor sap.
Despite the film’s overwhelming hype as Gandolfini’s final performance, the true headliner of The Drop is English actor Tom Hardy, an artist who continues to show a boundless range. As the film’s protagonist, Bob Saginowski, Hardy’s reticent portrayal captures the loneliness of a man whose quiet disposition hides a past life. “I’m not like them, I just tend bar,” Bob says repeatedly to Nadia, the new romantic interest in his life, as if trying to convince himself of that more than her. Bob’s lifelong bond to cousin Marv, however, is threatening to unhinge this delicate new life he’s created, and as secrets are revealed, it is this inner turmoil of past digressions that fuels Hardy’s stellar performance. I’m sure I’ve come off a bit of a broken record with my praise of this particular actor, but the run of success Hardy has had over the last half decade is reminiscent of Edward Norton’s achievements during the mid to late 90’s. And like Norton, I fear Hardy’s accomplishments will go unrecognized by the Academy.
Not until the final credits rolled did I fully grasp the genius of what The Drop has to offer. Director Michael Roskam takes a darkly arresting Dennis Lehane screenplay and gives us yet another highlight reel of vast acting abilities of Tom Hardy. A film that slowly simmers to a boiling crescendo, The Drop is also a fitting tribute to screen legend James Gandolfini, who made a career out of living in this criminal underworld.-JL