That’s my bar. Don’t fuck with my bar.
I must confess, I’m feeling a little guilty while starting this review, as I have cheated on my beloved Alamo Drafthouse by going to a regular theatre for the first time in years. It’s a shameful act I’ll admit, but the Regal 8 was just so much closer in terms of showtime and distance! At any rate I found myself among the other weary travelers in a sparsely populated, poorly maintained theatre wondering if it was going to be worth it all to see some gritty crime drama that I knew nothing about. I found myself assuming these were the usual suspects for this particular theatre: the middle-aged man alone sipping his soda, the teen girls no doubt giddy at the prospect of seeing their first rated R film, the struggling married couple trying to go on a date-night to save their relationship. They were by far the most interesting. She was dressed to kill in her elegant red dress with make-up meticulously applied to hide the recent wrinkles that had begun to form. He’s balding and looking like he just got done reading the newspaper, clearly more focused on his popcorn than the aging beauty beside him. Then of course, there is me – unshaven, unemployed, and completely unaware that my feeling of loneliness is actually foreshadowing the movie I’m about to see.
The Drop is the latest screen adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s writings (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island), and is directed by the relatively unknown (though hopefully not for long) Michaël R. Roskam. Knowing very little about this movie beforehand, the one thing I was gambling on was its cast; a gamble that thoroughly paid off I might add. Tom Hardy (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises), Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and everybody’s favorite soprano James Gandolfini star in this gritty crime-drama that reminds us all that you don’t fuck with people’s bars.
We the audience find ourselves in the chilly streets of Brooklyn once again and in that most sacred of places – the local bar. Tended by the mild mannered, possibly slow witted bartender Bob Something-or-other (Hardy). This bar, like all good bars, has its frequent patrons that pile in night after night, raising a glass to a dead friend’s anniversary or simply watching the game. The bar itself, named for Gandolfini’s character “Cousin Marv”, just happens to be the setting for an elaborate money drop off system (hence the title) and is frequented by the Chechen Mobster owners that cousin Marv is constantly trying to appease (having apparently lost ownership of his namesake in the not too distant past). Naturally the conflict arises that, since the bar is occasionally home to large sums of money, some folks inevitably want to hold up the joint and retire to some nice sandy beach somewhere…or something. Eventually things go south as the Chechens aren’t too happy to have their money stolen and what follows is an incredibly intricate, but unassuming narrative. Noomi Rapace plays the vulnerable yet fragile love interest (Who looks strikingly beautiful as always) and Tony Soprano plays…well…the small time crook that pines for the respect he had in the glory days. There is also a guy that beats puppies that should be universally hated.
While I don’t want to cheapen the roles of Gandolfini or Rapace in this film (as they both are extremely important in driving the film to its crescendo), Hardy stands out for his performance as the mild-mannered Bob the Bartender. One thing that I love about the actor in his films is that he easily adapts and manifests himself into his characters – seamlessly adopting accents, quirks, etc. (I’m thinking Bronson, not Bane). Like the film, his character is suspiciously muted throughout the story, but is gradually unveiled at about the same pace. It was disarming to me to follow his story, ever-waiting for a massive plot twist to signal his call to action, only to have it continue on at its pre-established rate. The whole movie I was expecting Hardy’s character to be similar to Ryan Gosling’s in Drive – in one scene rescuing a puppy from a trashcan and the next bashing some guy’s head in with a hammer. Therein lies the beauty of this movie, as it never departs from its inconspicuous tone until, much like the ambiguous quote at the end, you never see it coming.
One thing I particularly like about this film, is that it builds suspense casually rather than introducing majors plot twists or conflicts that drive the narrative. Like putting a puzzle together without looking at the box, you gradually see characters, conflicts, and resolutions weave together and develop. Having seen Lehane’s other work Gone baby Gone not too long ago, I found The Drop to be just as refreshing albeit with a much simpler, linear buildup. One device the director uses particularly well in this film is slightly off focus scenes with relevant characters or items of interest often pushed in the background. These shots work nicely with the eerie accompanying score to really drive home the apprehension that at any moment someone is just going to get shot in the face.
It goes without saying that I’m always going to recommend a movie like this simply because it has so many things that work in its favor. It has a quality cast including an exceptional performance from Hardy as Bob the Bartender, a rewarding narrative, and if nothing else – an adorable puppy named Rocco. The romance subplot initially seems distracting, but ultimately ties in nicely as does the religious underpinnings on morality. I personally would have preferred the exclusion of the very last scene, however, based on the theatre chatter after the film, my fellow patrons thought it was strongly infused with some sort of moral ambiguity. I gladly welcome some discussion on this as I thought it was pretty straight forward. Spoilers: Rocco the Puppy did it! But in all seriousness, The Drop is definitely worth the $10.50 to see it in theatres (the jokes on them, I saw it for free thanks to MoviePass!), and it’s not terribly violent or profane for a rated R movie. Having never read the short story on which the film is based, I can safely say that this movies plays like a suspenseful book you’d curl up on a rainy day with.
The Bottom Line:
The film is definitely worth a watch while it’s still in theatres, but more than likely it will be the film you stumble across on a Saturday night while browsing Netflix and you’ll leave satisfied with your decision not to go out drinking with your friends. It’s a solid movie with solid performances and a well-orchestrated narrative.