Playing It Safe – ★★★
When the dust settles on 2014, Michaël R. Roskam’s The Drop is likely to be considered as a “perfectly fine”, functional and enjoyable crime drama that doesn’t live too long in the memory.
Tom Hardy plays Bob, a Brooklyn bartender alongside his partner Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini). There’s hints of a criminal underworld that exists around them with the early reveal that the bar is regularly used as a “drop” bar for Chechen gangsters with criminals literally drop off money for laundering. Tom seems to be trying to stay away from this world and just simply says “I just tend the bar”.
One day when Bob is walking home he comes across an injured pit bull pup inside a bin outside someone’s house, he investigates and becomes friends with Nadia (Noomi Rapace) who lives in the house, and brings home the dog. This opens up a can of worms with Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts who starred in Rust and Bone and Roskam’s last feature Bullhead), who tracks him down, claims to be the dog’s owner, and is subsequently revealed as Nadia’s former lover.
The plot all holds up fairly well and screenwriter Dennis Lehane (who adapted the script from his book “Animal Rescue”) knows how to build a scene and create an authentic cast of characters. All are believable types with Schoenaerts’ Deeds the stand-out. Cousin Marv is a pretty one-dimensional crooked bar owner, but it seems like a fitting final role for Gandolfini whose most famous roles were all on the wrong side of the law. Still though it was nice to see him really stretching his dramatic wings one last time in Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said last year.
Hardy is absorbing as always and follows up his brilliant driving (literally) performance in Locke with another broader dramatic role away from the Mad Maxs and Banes of this world. Bob’s motives and back story are so well hidden behind Hardy’s eyes, your judgement is marred further by the fact he is befriending a cute puppy. It’s been obvious in the last few years that him and his big neck can do action but there’s still plenty of work to be done on role selection when the atrocious rom-com This Means War is still one of the few different parts he’s taken on.
Taking everything into consideration though, the whole thing is all just a bit dull. Perhaps Roskam felt he had to be completely faithful to Lehane’s perfunctionary script and so was wary of showing too much directorial flair, but after the promise of Bullhead, its hard to say he has really left his mark here.
Released across Ireland on November 14th 2014