Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace
Directed by: Michael R. Roskam (“Bullhead”)
Written by: Dennis Lehane (debut)
Adapted from his short story “Animal Rescue,” screenwriter/novelist Dennis Lehane is known for setting his crime dramas in the city of Boston. Two of his novels, “Gone Baby Gone” and “Mystic River,” were given the cinematic treatment a few years ago and made Boston brim with the kind of atmosphere you couldn’t generate in any other U.S. city. It’s doesn’t seem to be as important to Lehane in “The Drop.” Although his original story is set in Boston, filmmakers have transplanted the narrative in Brooklyn and have done so without upsetting their characters’ way of life. Maybe the studio changed locations because crime dramas in Boston have become overused in recent years (along with “Gone” and “River,” films like “The Town” and “The Departed” have taken full advantage of the city’s unique ambiance), but whatever the case, “The Drop” is still a smart, seething production led by a striking performance by actor Tom Hardy.
In “The Drop,” Hardy plays Bob Saginowski, a quiet, goodhearted bartender who does what he’s told and never lets the fact that his bar operates as a place where Brooklyn’s seediest criminals conduct money drops affect him. Along with his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini in his final film role and playing against type although it’s a mob movie), who owns the bar but still has to answer to the Chechen gangsters in charge, the two men seem content having a low-key profile and sticking to what they know best: serving beer to their neighborhood customers. When their bar, however, is robbed one evening by two masked thugs, Bob and Marv are thrown into a life-threatening situation they’d rather not be in.
Carried by a performance that shows what an incredible range Hardy has as an actor, the character of Bob Saginowski is a confident albeit understated one reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone’s Oscar nominated role in the original 1977 “Rocky.” You can tell Bob isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but there’s something about him that lets you know he’s in control of the situation. Aside from being on bad terms with the Russian mob for losing their money, Bob is also caught up in another incident that has him looking over his shoulder. After saving an abused and abandoned pit bull puppy from the street, with the help from a woman in the neighborhood (Noomie Rapace), Bob is confronted by the dog’s ruthless and irrational owner (an incredible Matthias Schoenaerts) who is a known murderer amongst the locals in the area.
In his English-language directorial debut, Oscar-nominated director Michael R. Roskam (“Bullhead”) is able to slowly build up the intensity of each scene effortlessly despite some of the storylines stretching themselves thin at times. While Rapace is a reasonable factor to include in the scenario, not much builds out of the relationship between her and Hardy to consider it significant. It’s the connection between Bob and Marv and the criminal underworld and how they’ve adapted to it over the years that feels the most authentic to what Lehane and Roskam want to say. It’s this part of the narrative that keeps the Brooklyn-based plot involving all the way up to its twisty climax.