Dirty money, armed robbery and a long-standing murder mystery are just some of the more typical ingredients of this edgy crime drama that begins in a deceptively deliberate style and gradually builds to a shocking conclusion. More untypically, however, “The Drop” also features a badly abused dog and a focus on its characters that adds enormously to the richness and authenticity of Denis Lehane’s fine screenplay which is based on his 2009 short story “Animal Rescue”.
In a working-class neighbourhood of Brooklyn, “Cousin Marv’s” is a seedy bar that’s occasionally used as a “drop” for the proceeds of the vicinity’s criminal and gambling activities. Substantial amounts of cash are deposited by a variety of individuals and then held for later collection by a member of the Chechen mob that rules the area. The bar’s run by Marv (James Gandolfini) and his cousin Bob (Tom Hardy) who’s the regular bartender.
One night, Marv becomes irritated when some of the bar’s customers raise a toast to a local guy called Richie Whelan who was murdered 10 years earlier and later, on his way home, Bob sees a bleeding and very distressed-looking pit-bull puppy in a bin outside the house of one of his neighbours. Nadia (Noomi Rapace) is surprised and suspicious at first to find Bob looking into her bin but later helps him to nurse the dog back to health.
Bob, whose relationship with Nadia develops slowly and quietly, is unassuming, hard-working and seems perfectly content to take his orders from the more forceful Marv who used to own the bar until the Chechens took it over some years ago. Bob’s rather routine lifestyle suddenly changes when the bar’s robbed one night by a couple of masked men who threaten Bob and Marv at gunpoint and make off with $5,000. The Chechens hold Bob and Marv responsible for retrieving the money and are very threatening about what will happen if they don’t succeed. To make matters worse, Bob also gets stalked by a menacing and mentally unstable man called Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) who claims to be the pit-bull’s owner and a local detective who starts asking questions about the Richie Whelan murder. Bob copes stoically with everything that happens and the way in which his story reaches its denouement is both fascinating and shocking.
The most striking thing about this movie is Tom Hardy’s wonderfully measured performance which conveys so perfectly the strength, intensity and loneliness of Bob who’s consistently underestimated because of his passive nature. The late James Gandolfini (in his last big-screen appearance), also excels as Marv who’s become bitter and resentful due to the loss of his bar, his status and the financial stability that he once enjoyed. Among the strong supporting cast, Mattias Schoenaerts stands out as the vicious psychopath Eric Deeds, who’s Nadia’s ex-boyfriend and in the opinion of most people, Richie Whelan’s killer.
“The Drop” has a moody atmosphere that’s enhanced by most of the action taking place in low-light or night-time situations and the subtle build-up of the tension that becomes such a strong feature of the film is brilliantly paced and highly effective. With its modest budget and lack of hype, it would be easy for those who haven’t seen this movie to have low expectations of it but those who have seen it will know that underestimating Bob or “The Drop” would be a big mistake.
8 out of 10 stars