tue 26/01/2021

The Drop | reviews, news & interviews

The Drop

The Drop

Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini excel in downbeat New York crime story

A dog's life? It's a struggle for survival for Bob (Tom Hardy, left) and Marv (James Gandolfini)

Derived from a Dennis Lehane short story called Animal Rescue, at one level The Drop is indeed a tale of one man and his dog, a pit bull puppy rescued from a dustbin in Brooklyn. But given the opportunity to develop the story into a screenplay for Belgian director Michaël R Roskam (of Bullhead fame), Lehane has created a subtly detailed milieu of crushed hopes, pervasive fear and simmering criminality.

Derived from a Dennis Lehane short story called Animal Rescue, at one level The Drop is indeed a tale of one man and his dog, a pit bull puppy rescued from a dustbin in Brooklyn. But given the opportunity to develop the story into a screenplay for Belgian director Michaël R Roskam (of Bullhead fame), Lehane has created a subtly detailed milieu of crushed hopes, pervasive fear and simmering criminality.

The piece opens with a voice-over in a whiny Brooklyn accent, as if we might be in Scorsese land or Sopranos world. It's a jolt to discover that the voice belongs, entirely plausibly, to the always-surprising Tom Hardy, playing a seemingly semi-retarded bartender called Bob Saginowski. He works at Cousin Marv's bar, Marv being the last film role of James Gandolfini. The latter has suffered a decline since his Tony Soprano days though, having had his mini-empire wrested from him by the Chechen mobsters represented by Chovka (Michael Aronov).

Gandolfini plays the bitter and humiliated Marv only too well, a mass of bloodied ego and injured pride. "I was respected, I was feared," he rages, and he has never learned to accept his downgraded status. He resents the Chechens, who tell him on which days his bar has been designated as "the drop" – the collection point for cash harvested from their criminal activities. The story builds to a sudden and violent climax on Super Bowl Sunday, which also happens to be a drop night at Marv's.

At about an hour-and-45 this isn't a long movie, but even so long stretches of it are deceptively uneventful. We see Bob rescuing the badly-beaten puppy from the garbage after he hears him whimpering. The trashcan is outside the apartment where Nadia (Noomi Rapace) lives. She's suspicious of the stranger hanging around her dustbins at first, but their discussion about what to do with the dog (Bob names it Rocco) is the start of a relationship which proceeds as an almost imperceptible upward incline (Hardy, Rapace and Rocco, pictured above).

Lehane likes to develop his narrative by misdirection, sprinkling clues in the margins. For instance, we sense how the character of the old neighbourhood is changing irrevocably when Detective Torres (John Ortiz) talks about how the local Catholic church is being sold to developers, so there'll just be "condos with stained glass windows". Torres pokes about in a crabwise, Columbo-like way, seemingly knowing nothing but in fact in possession of everything except conclusive evidence.

Bob responds with what – in hindsight – you realise is a professional dead bat. He seems determined to keep his profile low and his thoughts to himself. He's no longer in "the life", he protests, he just serves in the bar. When a couple of masked hoodlums bust in one night and rob Marv's, Bob remains the picture of passivity (Gandolfini in Cousin Marv's, above).

It's another attempted robbery that brings matters to a head, with Rocco the dog pressed into service as the seemingly trivial pretext. Nadia's ex-boyfriend, a wheedling psycho called Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenarts), claims the dog is his and wants $10k from Bob for it. Bob would be prepared to pay up, but he knows it won't end there. Bob knows quite a lot of other stuff too, as it turns out, and we learn that supernatural calmness has not always been his default condition. As Detective Torres comments, "no-one ever sees you coming, do they Bob?"

Overleaf: watch the trailer for The Drop

 

Gandolfini plays the bitter and humiliated Marv only too well, a mass of bloodied ego and injured pride

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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