By Leslie C. Halpern
The Drop offers some big surprises — all of them good. A gritty crime drama directed by Michael R. Roskam and starring Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini (in one of his final roles), this movie goes well above and beyond the expected guns, money, and booze you’d expect to find in this kind of story.
A Lonely Bartender
Hardy stars as a lonely bartender helping out his cousin Marv (Gandolfini) in quietly handling money drops from the Chechen mafia through their seedy Brooklyn bar. Trying to maintain a low-profile among these local gangsters, yet still keep his loyalty to his cousin, Bob (Hardy) tends bar, prays in church, and lives alone in his modest home. When the bar is robbed early in the film, it sets off a series of events that change Bob’s life as his quiet existence collides with various criminals. Marv’s shaky financial status becomes even shakier as he’s pressured by the Chechens to get the money back and by the police to tell them what he knows about the crime.
So far, the movie’s what you might expect. Then lonely Bob finds a severely beaten puppy in the trash and adopts it. He becomes entangled with Nadia (Noomi Rapace), a physically and emotionally scarred woman, who helps him take care of the dog. A dangerous stalker follows Bob around town and one day appears on his doorstep. Suddenly more than just a violent crime drama, the storyline, music, and tone become decidedly creepy and mysterious.
Athough Hardy’s character goes by the simple name of Bob and claims he just tends bar, his complex character reveals much of himself through his dialogue with others, church visits, relationship with Nadia, and treatment of his puppy. He, like the dog and so many others in The Drop, needs rescue, if not redemption.
Terrific performances and an intelligent script highlight this thriller that ventures into emotional territory most crime thrillers ignore, and grows increasingly unsettling by the minute. Music by Marco Beltrami and Raf Keunen adds to the brooding ambiance, and tight cinematography by Nicolas Karakatsanis completes this dark, gritty cinematic package based on Dennis Lehane’s screenplay and original short story, “Animal Rescue,” now a book titled The Drop. In this particular part of Brooklyn, animals in need of rescue lurk in every corner.