Movie Review: 'The Drop' (2014)

In the seedy underworld of Brooklyn, Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) lives a rather mundane existence working at Cousin Marv’s, a dive bar that is run by his actual cousin (James Gandolfini) from whom it takes its name.

The neighborhood hangout also happens to be the drop spot for mob money and both Bob and Marv keep their heads down, as they work the arrangement. Bob is more accepting of it than his cousin, who seethes with frustration over being displaced. His glory days as a neighborhood heavy behind him, he still yearns for what was.

In the bitter cold of Christmastime’s afterglow, Bob’s daily routine is shaken by two events. He discovers and rescues an abused Pit Bull puppy that’s been abandoned in a garbage can and the bar is robbed at gun point. What follows is a twisty crime story that plays things close to the vest. Michael Roskam’s direction is subtle and the bleak dreariness of winter provides the appropriate aesthetic for gritty drama.

Despite a leisurely pace, “The Drop” avoids tediousness and that is due to the intriguing nature of its characters, namely Bob. He is a straightforward working man with a foreshadowed past, an enigmatic bearing and an unshakable air of mystery.

Having the tremendous talent of its cast is the key component that pushes the movie past the reach of similar fare. Tom Hardy dominates the screen with a multi-faceted performance that makes Bob just as ordinarily believable as he is dynamic. Carrying films with few words and subtle expressions is one of Hardy’s many strong points and his work here proves no exception.

[Image by Fox Searchlight Pictures]
Squaring off against Hardy's Bob is Eric, the Pit Bull puppy's deranged former owner, played by Matthias Schoenaerts. Schoenaerts brings a subdued volatility to the intimidating and unhinged Eric, charging the film with a significant portion of its unpredictability.

As Bob and Eric face off in countless showdowns, both Hardy and Schoenaerts hold their own against each other and with neither actor backing down, there's an added tension to the underlying question of which character will come out on top.

In his final film role, Gandolfini turns in an exceptional performance that is punctuated with equal parts gruff humor and fearsome determination. While Noomi Rapace crackles with sincerity as Bob’s love interest, the hardened yet tender Nadia.

"The Drop" offers a puzzle that’s pieces are interspersed throughout the narrative and far from hand fed to its audience. What it says without blunt force dialogue goes further than loquacious monologues could.

For instance, the subtle analogy of Rocco is especially gripping with its understated nuance. Staying realistic with its denouements, it sacrifices some steam by not offering at least one major physical altercation between its characters.

Underneath all of the bravado and poker stares, a fight seems an inevitable conclusion to draw and the lack of one comes off as stilted. Without a release, all of that particular buildup ends up having nowhere to go, which is initially frustrating. Clever writing and a sharp execution manages to overcome this weakness. 

Touching on the nerve shared by the contemplative dramas of the 70’s and 80’s, it stews with a brooding that avoids outlandish shocks. Electrifyingly poised, “The Drop” lurks with a quietness that doesn’t announce its intention, taking a bigger bite as a result. As viewers navigate its variously concealed compartments, they are given much more to explore long after the credits roll. Rating: 7.7/10

[Featured Image by Fox Searchlight Pictures]