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The Drop, starring James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace and Tom Hardy is a wonderfully paced and low-key character study of a former tough guy and his cousin. Directed by Michaël R. Roskam, in what is his second feature length film and adapted by Dennis Lehane from his own short story Animal Rescue, the film is a visit to the underbelly of the back streets and alleyways of Brooklyn. Lehane deviated from his usual setting of Boston and as a result the movie almost sings with the wealth of “Brooklyn-ese” that spills from the lips of all the characters.
At the beginning of the film, a group of men are toasting a friend who “died” 10 years previously, a kid named Richie Whalen, aka Glory Days. Bob the bartender sets up the men with a free shot of whiskey which he says is “on the house.” The bar’s owner Marv has paid for the drinks but he tells his bartender cousin that the men “need to move on.”
After the bar closes down, Bob is walking in his neighborhood when he hears a puppy whining in apparent distress. Opening a trashcan lid he finds a bloody and beaten animal which he decides is a Boxer. The owner of the trashcan, Nadia, asks him what he is doing in her yard and after some safety measures by the woman, the two rescue the dog.
Intermixed with this “Marney-type” love story, is the tale of cousin Marv’s bar being a drop. In the opening scenes of the film Bob explains what a drop is, via voiceover, and how the whole thing works. Bob (Tom Hardy) tells Nadia (Noomi Rapace) about how Marv (James Gandolfini) was a hard, or tough guy, back in the day and how they had their own crew until they “flinched” and other crews took it all away. The Drop, has a multiple number of plot lines along with its character study of two cousins who are “still in the life” as Nadia puts it.
The truth is that Marv owns the bar in name only. It is actually owned and used by “Chechen” mobsters who have apparently taken over Brooklyn from the Italian mafioso. When the bar is robbed by two men in masks at the beginning of the film, a series of events is set in motion that will reveal what is underneath the surface of both cousins.
James Gandolfini as Marv shows just how much he mastered his craft before his too early death last year at age 51. The actor does more with a glance and his body language than most of his peers can do with reams of dialogue. In one scene, Bob finds something in a black plastic trash bag and tells his cousin he needs to see it. Gandolfini as Marv elicits a range of reactions and emotions just in the way he stands during this scene.
English actor Tom Hardy stepped up to the challenge of working with two immensely talented actors, Rapace and Gandolfini as well as Matthias Schoenaerts who played the psychotic Eric Deeds. Sporting a soft spoken Brooklyn accent that never faltered, the 36 year-old actor completely sold himself as the quiet, lacking in confidence cousin who stuck by Marv.
Noomi Rapace as the slightly damaged Nadia was excellent and just as convincing as the other “non-American actors who portrayed native’s of Brooklyn. The match of Bob and Nadia is sweet and fragile and both characters give the impression that they may be a little mentally challenged, although with Nadia is seems to be down to drug use.
There are a couple of “reveals,” or twists, in the film and even though the final one is hinted at by James Gandolfini’s character Marv, it is still surprising. The power of Lehane’s adaptation is such that this last revelation causes a spontaneous answer to a few previously unanswered questions. Tom Hardy should get a few gongs come award time for his performance, along with a few posthumous ones for Gandolfini, in this tough guy character study. The Drop not only looks excellent, gritty, real and cold, but the sets feel unmistakably familiar, the bar is one that everyone has frequented and the homes feel lived in. The Drop opens September 12, 2014. Go watch this brilliant film and prepare to be engrossed and amazed by everyone in it.
By Michael Smith
Green Valley Ranch