Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 46 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for some Strong Violence and Pervasive Language
Directed by: Michael R. Roskam
Written by: Dennis Lehane
Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Oritz & Michael Aronov
From outward appearances, THE DROP had chances of being a possible Oscar contender. It features three great acting talents and a script penned by the author of SHUTTER ISLAND, MYSTIC RIVER, and GONE BABY GONE. The trailers hinted that this might be a crime drama that delivered on being James Gandolfini’s last great film and Tom Hardy has delivered a consistent line of solid performances (from Handsome Bob to Bronson to Bane to a desperate man inside of a car for 85 minutes). THE DROP isn’t nearly as good as the potentially great ideas and talent behind the film might suggest, but I found it to be a decent crime film with a few surprises up its sleeve.
Bob tends at the little joint known as Cousin Marv’s Bar. This building houses more than just drinking and football games on TV. It’s also a drop bar for the mafia’s dirty money. When a hold-up puts the Chechen criminals out $5,000, it’s a sign that another hit is near. Meanwhile, Bob takes in a wounded puppy and starts a relationship with a young waitress named Nadia. Things get complicated when the unhinged, disheveled and crazy Eric enters Bob’s life. As the mob’s patience wears thin, Bob must make some life-altering decisions to do what he believes is right. THE DROP is a crime drama in the sense that there are gangsters, but they aren’t the main characters. In fact, they’re only seen a handful of times. Instead, Bob and Cousin Marv are tough guys, but not part of any particular mob. They happen to be on the receiving end of a lot of these problems, especially Bob.
Without a doubt, the dynamic between Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini is the best thing about this movie. Their performances make the movie far more compelling than it should have been. It certainly helps that their characters aren’t the typical archetypes one might expect walking into a crime story starring these two. Hardy plays Bob as a mentally slow, but sensitive man who comes off as way too innocent to be working in an establishment connected to the mafia. The late and great Gandolfini is a washed-up tough guy, who never fully was a gangster to begin with, and doesn’t come off as anything close to Tony Soprano. He went out with a great performance, even if it was in a far from fantastic or perfect movie. With Hardy and Gandolfini taking center stage, the rest of the characters get swiped to the sidelines including a way too underused Noomi Rapace and the central villain of the piece (Matthias Schoenaerts) underwhelmed.
Making matters worse besides a wasted Rapace and iffy villain, is a plot that’s predictable in a lot of ways. There are a couple of cool twists (I honestly didn’t see one of them coming), but other scenes are heavy-handed or entirely pointless. The use of a cute pit bull puppy as a center for Hardy’s Bob to encounter most of his difficulties feels a tad manipulative. In fact, the pit bull Rocco is probably the third most viewed character on-screen and did get plenty of “awwwws” from the audience I was watching this with. For a gangster film, there isn’t a whole lot of violence either and brief gory bits are memorable. The writing from Lehane can be very sloppy at points. A detective character (momentarily seen developed in about three scenes) is left in the dust and completely forgotten until the final third of the film has almost concluded.
THE DROP won’t win any awards and isn’t the best movie that James Gandolfiini could have ended with, but it has many things to like. Both Hardy and Gandolfini deliver excellent performances as unique characters that we haven’t typically seen or pictured them in. The movie does take some interesting turns in its final act (which is solid as the first two-thirds are where most of the problems lie). It doesn’t tackle any completely new ground for a crime film and can be very manipulative at times for the viewer (that cute little puppy), but there’s also enough to like to warrant a recommendation for fans of gangster movies. You can certainly do far worse. I liked THE DROP as a whole, but there are some big flaws that do take the film’s quality down a notch.