Film Review: The Drop
Every night illegal money flows across New York like water through the sewers. Before it is distributed through criminal networks, the cash must be collected and stored. It cannot be banked and will never be declared on a tax claim. This subterranean commerce finds shelter in ‘drop bars’, randomly chosen from a pool of drinking premises with mob connections. Throughout the night until closing couriers deposit envelopes thick with cash. No one knows where the drop bar will be in advance.
Bob Saginowsky (Hardy) is a barman in one such establishment, Cousin Marv’s in Brooklyn. Although his name is above the door, Marv (Gandolfini) lost ownership some time ago over long-standing debts. The current owner is a particularly unpleasant Eastern European gangster.
Walking home from a shift, Bob finds an abandoned and abused pit bull puppy in a trash can and becomes a slightly unwilling dog owner. He also starts a faltering relationship with Nadia (Rapace), the owner of the bin in which Bob found the dog.
Bob’s ordered, simple life is about to be disturbed by more than a lack of house training. First the bar is robbed on a ‘drop’ night. The street punks only make off with five grand in bar takings, but this puts Marv on the hook to the unsympathetic owner. Then a man called Eric Deeds (Schoenaerts) shows up on Bob’s doorstep claiming the puppy is his. Deeds is an unpredictable and violent character whose presence becomes an increasing threat to both Bob and Nadia.
Adapted by crime writer Dennis Lehane from his short story ‘Animal Rescue’, The Drop focuses heavily on character and mood over action. Director Michaël R. Roskam is strong on atmosphere, using limited locations with skill. Where the film suffers is in translation from a short story: the plot is too back-loaded and the first half is too much of a slow-burn.
However, there is still much to enjoy here. First and foremost, a fantastic performance from Hardy with a pitch perfect accent. An immensely physical screen presence, Hardy’s lumbering and imposing physique contrasts with a soft voice and gentle manner. While quite different in style, his performance in The Drop shares qualities with Jack Nicholson’s mob hitman in Prizzi’s Honor (an uncharacteristic Nicholson performance). Both characters appear simple to the point of low intelligence. You can see what Bob is thinking from the micro-expressions on his face, but there is also a quiet and steely determination that suggests there is more going on with this character. As a piece of acting, it is a master class in subtlety, firmly holding attention even as the narrative meanders.
Directed by Michaël R. Roskam
Screenplay by Dennis Lehane
Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts
106 mins, cert 15, released 14th November