The Drop

ON

Cast:
Tom Hardy as Bob Saginowsky
James Gandolfini as Cousin Marv
Noomi Rapace as Nadia
Matthias Schoenaerts as Eric Deeds
John Ortiz as Detective Torres
Elizabeth Rodriguez as Detective Romsey
Michael Aronov as Chovka
Morgan Spector as Andre
Michael Esper as Rardy
Ross Bickell as Father Regan
James Frecheville as Fitz
Tobias Segal as Briele
Patricia Squire as Millie
Ann Dowd as Dottie
Chris Sullivan as Jimmy

Directed by Michael Roskam

Story:
Bob and Marv Saginowsky (Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini) run a bar in Brooklyn, which happens to be a drop spot for the local mob. When the bar is robbed, the bar’s mob-related owners come down hard on the brothers to find those responsible, but at the same time, Bob has found a dog in a trash can that has been beaten up pretty badly. With the help of Nadia (Noomi Rapace), who lives where the dog is found, they nurse the dog back to health before a menacing local thug named Eric Deeds (Matthis Schoenaerts) turns up claiming the dog as his own.

Analysis:
When you talk about some of the great crime novels that have been adapted into film over the past decade, it won’t take long before you get to Dennis Lehane, author of “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone.” Adapted by Lehane from his own short story “Animal Rescue,” this is a crime drama that rarely resorts to action set pieces, shock value or dramatic explosives to get its story across. Instead, it’s a straight character piece set in the world of the Brooklyn mob and how it affects a number of individuals after a very specific incident sets up a number of repercussions.

As one might imagine, the simple premise means the focus can be on a smaller group of characters, although it very much feels like two separate stories as the film takes its sweet time to set things up, making you wonder whether those two stories will ever come together. (Spoiler: They do.)

The idea of a “drop bar” is introduced in the first few minutes, a place chosen randomly by the mob where all the money made illegally for the day winds up for easy pick-up. We first enter Cousin Marv’s Place as a number of local bar denizens are toasting the anniversary of a friend who had gone missing one year earlier. The bar’s namesake Marv (Gandolfini) does most of the talking while his cousin Bob (Hardy) does most of the work. On his way home one night, Bob hears something in a trashcan where he finds an injured dog, one that’s clearly been beaten, but knowing nothing about dogs, he asks for help from the woman who lives there, Noomi Rapace’s Nadia who has some experience with dogs (and abuse) herself. When the bar gets robbed, Marv has to find out who took the $5,000 from the till, forcing him to go back to his own old habits, while Bob faces the dog’s previous owner, who happens to be Nadia’s old boyfriend.

Honestly, it’s not a great story for a film compared to other Lehane adaptations, maybe because it was expanded from a 20-page short that would need to be greatly expanded to make a film of a suitable length. Fortunately, director Michael Roskam (“Bullhead”) uses the opportunity to create a general mood, tone and look to the film that harks back to those great crime dramas of the ’70s despite not having a nearly as interesting a plot as many of them.

Tom Hardy, who tends to be quite intense in many of his roles, plays Bob with such a subdued demeanor, barely speaking or reacting to anything. It’s quite a striking departure from what we’ve seen from him. It’s not like Bob is slow-witted, just that he only speaks when he has something to say, which actually isn’t a bad trait to have. Unless of course, you are the central role in a movie. (Sure, some actors have pulled this off before, most notably Ryan Gosling.)

At this point, saying anything good or bad about the late great James Gandolfini would either be redundant or tasteless, but his very presence in the film raises the bar in terms of the performances, especially in his scenes with Hardy. It’s not much of a stretch for the actor and it would have been nice to have his career come to a close with last year’s “Enough Said,” a role closer to the real Gandolfini than another Tony Soprano-like role like this one.

Likewise, Nadia doesn’t seem like much of a challenge for Noomi Rapace considering what she’s done before this – she’s essentially the love interest trying to make things work with an equally damaged counterpart. Amidst such a strong cast, it’s impressive to see Matthias Schoenaerts–reuniting with Roskam from their Oscar-nominated film–really stand-out as he transforms himself into Eric Deeds, one of the few main characters who feels like any kind of real threat. For a cast of mostly foreign actors playing Brooklyn residents, Schoenarts does the best at getting the accent and attitude right.

Otherwise, the Brooklyn setting isn’t fully believable – maybe it’s just that I don’t get to those tougher areas or that Lehane meant this to be more of a period piece. It’s never made quite clear whether the story was meant to be set in present day or not.

On top of that, it’s a shame the film never really explodes as films in this vein often might, and there seem to be a lot of unnecessary scenes like the ones between Gandolfini and the underrated Ann Dowd as his sister Dottie, who just isn’t needed in the story at all.

The slow pace and extraneous scenes might have added more to the film’s undoing if it just weren’t so riveting to watch in terms of overall filmmaking. Not that it’s a flashy film, but Roskam gives the weak story far more weight than it may have had in the hands of a lesser director.

The Bottom Line:
Slow and subdued but crafted with care and finesse, “The Drop” is not for the attention-deprived, though it’s a perfectly respectable crime-drama that’s only hindered by the fact it feels redundant to a genre that’s already become fairly oversaturated.