I love crime dramas and I consider it to be one of my favorite genres, however, I think it’s now facing one huge issue. For every film like Killing them Softly or Drive, you’ll find a hollow, clichéd film that wallows in how horrible its characters are and bashes you over the head with the shallow and unoriginal messages that’s it’s trying to say. Everybody loves crime dramas, but in this we face a problem because that means that we will also have to endure a bunch of hack writers who are failing to capture the magic of the movies and shows they are inspired by and in so come up with movies that choose cynicism over wit and feel pretentious, lazy and insincere. Director Michaël R. Roskam’s film The Drop doesn’t go into territory that I would call groundbreaking or daring, but what the movie has going for it is that it always feels genuine. Nothing felt heavy handed or forced and it was all done with a highest level of competence from everyone.
Bob (Tom Hardy) is a bartender at a bar that is often the drop box for the money of the mob. When he finds a brutally beaten pit bull puppy in a garbage can, he adopts and takes care of it with the help of one of his neighbors (Noomi Rapace) whom he begins to have a romantic relationship with. All while this is happening, Bob and his boss Marv (James Gandolfini) must figure how to come into good terms again with the mob after the bar gets robbed.
As I said above, the thing that works best about the movie is the attention it gives to making you care about its characters. I think this might be my 2nd favorite Tom Hardy performance to Bronson. Even though he is creating this accent for the part, Hardy feels very natural in the role. Because of him and the writing, Bob may be one of the most likable protagonists I’ve seen so far this year. You never get the feeling that Hardy is using this role for an Oscar or credibility. Due to facial expressions and his outstanding chemistry with Gandolfini and Rapace; we are given this touching portrayal of a truly nice, kind hearted person who also has to do some terrible things because of the line of work he has chosen. He does some pretty brutal things near the end but throughout he is so well written and Tom Hardy seems so relaxed into the character that you are still rooting for him to succeed even if he might be a bit of a psychopath at times.
Praising Tom’s performance first isn’t to give shame to the rest of its outstanding cast. James Gandolfini’s final role might not be delivering something new or groundbreaking in the actor but it still shows him at his best. Like Hardy, James gets you to sympathize with this man who is doing terrible things because he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. What makes Marv different from Bob is that Marv craves the excitement and intensity of the criminal underworld and won’t mind using it to his advantage while Bob will keep away from that place for as far as he can go. The chemistry between Bob and Marv plays as a sort of dysfunctional father/son relationship that feels honest and at times bleak and at times funny. Equally great is Noomi Rapace as Bob’s sort of girlfriend Nadia. Again, the chemistry she shares with Bob is rather strange but the dialogue that they share together is poignant and Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace do an incredible job playing off of each other. It’s all very grounded and despite all of this intense stuff that is going on the romance part felt oddly sweet. Also worth mentioning is Matthias Schoenaerts who played Eric, Nadia’s ex-boyfriend and the original owner of the pit bull. He does a good job playing someone you really would like to punch while still making him seem like a real person. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is one where it shows him breaking into Nadia’s house to speak to her. Usually they would just cut to Nadia going into the house and finding Eric there but the movie goes one step beyond and shows before that with him looking around her house and practicing what he will say to her. It’s a cliché that happens a lot in movies but that one extra step made Eric feel more human and moved the plot point away from the pack.
All of the technical areas of the movie worked really well. I really enjoyed the music by Marco Beltrami; it gave the movie a subtle 70’s crime vibe without feeling too obvious that it was paying homage. The cinematography by Nicolas Karakatsanis captured the cold yet comforting nature of the story and the setting.
The movie works at is best due to its great set of characters. Writer Dennis Lehane builds such strong characters that you can sympathize with them even at their lowest points. Throughout, the movie tackles a question that has certainly been done before. Can Bob morally juggle a kind, gentle life with the terrible things he sometimes does? The movie isn’t so much about redemption as it is about a person dealing with something they have to do if they want to survive. There throughout is this switching between Bob doing bad things for a good life and doing good things for a bad life and by the end you get to see him be accepted for everything that he is and despite all of the gritty, dark things that have gone down, you leave the movie feeling that it was very heartwarming and inspiring. Anybody can make a trashy movie that shows how terrible the criminal underworld is but it takes a true artist to portray the true happiness and warmth in the people behind it all. This is the kind of movie that thrives on the nuances of the calm before the storm.
The Drop is not a perfect movie. Clichés happen in here that would annoy me in other films and if you wanted to, you could probably nitpick this movie to pieces, but because of charming performances and a sincere screenplay, the movie an undeniable success when it comes to its message. Dark things will always happen and nobody will ever be perfect, but the best that anyone can do is try to find kindness and compassion despite what is happening.
Release Date: 9/12/2014
Directed by: Michaël R. Roskam
Screenplay by: Dennis Lehane
Based on the Short Story “Animal Rescue” by: Dennis Lehane