Review: Tom Hardy Makes 'The Drop' a Slow, Dark Ride Worth Taking
by Jeremy Kirk
September 12, 2014
Tom Hardy tackles yet another awkwardly-spoken eccentric (with something of a dark edge) in The Drop, and, once again he hits the role hard. That is to say, he owns it, and the crime drama elevates to something endlessly watchable with every line he speaks and every twitch his eye gives. With a screenplay from novelist Dennis Lehane and execution in guile from director Michaël R. Roskam, The Drop delivers a powderkeg of subtle intensity, suspenseful in all that it does and doesn't do. Though Hardy shines past every distinct aspect the film brings, the solid drama sprinkled with a dusting of violence makes for a fine thriller.
Hardy plays Bob Saginowski, a bartender as meek as his vanilla first name would imply. The bar where Bob works, Cousin Marv's - the late James Gandolfini plays the Marv after which this particular bar is named - is the local drop spot for Brooklyn's underground crime syndicate to hold and pass along its dirty money. Given the potentially violent nature of what Cousin Marv is holding at his bar, Bob lives a rather straightforward life. The most complicated it gets is when Bob finds and rescues an abandoned puppy in a neighbor's (Noomi Rapace) garbage bin. But that simple life is about to get very complicated, as a seemingly friv0lous hold-up at Cousin Marv's whips a chain of events into motion, unassuming at first but increasingly dangerous. And then the paranoia sets in.
It's no surprise the stories Lehane tells are filled with all manners of darkness. His novels that have been adapted to the screen range in violent (Mystic River) to the extremely violent (Shutter Island). Yet all of his works have favored a subtlety in their messages. With The Drop he adapts his own short story, "Animal Rescue," and his first foray into feature film writing takes its subtlety very seriously.
The film goes long stretches between significant or violent events, taking its time to build the relationship between Bob and the new woman in his life, Nadia. For large periods the film comes off as a companion to Rocky, following a lovable schlub with connections to violence falling for a shy, troubled girl who needs sensitivity in her life and all that jazz. However, the lack of wall-to-wall violence notwithstanding, The Drop maneuvers itself into the discomforting places in your mind.
Maybe the discomfort is in realizing these genuine and likable characters and the happiness you know they can't, or won't, sustain until the end credits. Maybe it's in knowing just how serious the implications are of what Bob and Marv are getting, or have gotten, themselves into. Maybe, and this is the key, it's in how Roskam, the film's director, allows Lehane's screenplay to take its time and let it build.
As with his breakout film, Bullhead, Roskam offers suspense in the emptiness, a knife twisting in you, the viewer's, side that you aren't even aware of until blood is drawn. You sit comfortably in your seat during a Roskam film, but you're always mindful that something is…off. The editing, the compositions, even the way The Drop shrewdly drops (pun sort-of intended) sound out of a scene makes you cognizent of the film you're watching. It all adds to the unnerving paranoia seeping into Bob and Marv's world, paranoia that's present for good reason.
Every frame of the film exhudes class-in-execution, the main ingredient in the film's success always coming back to Hardy and this character he embodies. Again, I misspoke and underrated the man's career. Hardy embodies every character he portrays, making his highly recognizable face vanish behind a layered and complicated persona. As Bob he shuffles his feet, mumbles his words, and puppy-dogs his eyes with effortless ability and seamless transformation. Speaking of puppy dogs, the very sight of Hardy holding a pitbull puppy in his arms will either make you sympathize instantly and emotionally with his character or, at the very least, give the chip in your robotic brain a slight twitch.
Secondary players hold their own again the talented frontman, not the least of which is Gandolfini, always a welcome presence. To know that we have a finite amount of James Gandolfini, who passed away last year, performances is a newly realized sadness in the world. Rapace equally drives her character home against Hardy's scene-stealing. Other performances like Matthias Schoenaerts as a local thug who butts heads with Bob and John Ortiz as a detective investigating the goings-on at the bar slide into place meticulously. Michael Aronov as Chovka, the man whose money sits at Cousin Marv's, is surprising in his antics, an odd choice for comic relief, but it also serves the discomfort at which the film seems to aim.
The Drop comes in as demure as its lead character, a crime drama that's more beguiling than modest. Lehane's screenplay picks its punches very carefully, and, though the punches it does take don't always land with the utmost impact, the build towards its flourishes are certainly there for the taking. Roskam a solid choice to execute the screenplay and Hardy the ideal candidate to play a character as down-to-gray-earth as Bob, The Drop is certainly a crime story worthy of the darker corners it eventually does examine.
Jeremy's Rating: 8.5 out of 10
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