The Drop (2014)

US / 107 minutes / color / Chernin, Big Screen, Ingenious, TSG, Fox Searchlight Dir: Michaël R. Roskam Pr: Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping Scr: Dennis Lehane Story: “Animal Rescue” (2009 in Boston Noir, edited by Dennis Lehane) by Dennis Lehane Cine: Nicolas Karakatsanis Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Ann Dowd, Michael Aronov, James Frecheville, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Tobias Segal, Michael Esper, Morgan Spector.

Scripted by Dennis Lehane on the basis of a story by Dennis Lehane first published in an anthology edited by Dennis Lehane (one of the celebrated Placename Noir series published by Akashic), this highly impressive slice of neonoir has, well, Dennis Lehane all over it.

Noomi Rapace as Nadia and Tom Hardy as Bob.

Brooklyn bar tender Bob Saginowski (Hardy) works in a drop bar, so-called because the local mobsters choose a different bar at random every night for receipt of their nefarious takings from all over, figuring that this way the cops are less likely to figure out where the money’s being collected. The bar where Bob works is managed by his much older cousin Marv Sliper (Gandolfini), who lives with his (Marv’s) sister Dottie (Dowd). Marv used in fact to own the bar, but through folly lost it to the local Chechen mob, personified by the sinister thug Chovka Umarov (Aronov).

Tom Hardy as Bob.

One night on his way home Bob discovers a badly beaten puppy abandoned in a trash can. Through the puppy, whom he adopts and calls Rocco, he gets to know Nadia Dunn (Rapace), and they become friends. But Rocco is not just a random stray. He previously belonged to Nadia’s creepy ex-boyfriend Eric Deeds (Schoenaerts), who decides he wants his dog back. And Eric is no one to fool with: a genuine head case, he boasts on the street that ten years ago he murdered a guy called Richie Whelan, a killing that’s never been officially solved.

James Gandolfini as Marv.

It takes Bob a while to realize that Marv is planning for Eric to hold up the bar the next time it’s going to be used for the neighborhood drop—Superbowl night, when takings everywhere should be high—and leave Bob holding the can. Somehow Bob must protect himself, Nadia and Rocco—not necessarily in that order of priority—while quelling the suspicions of smart Detective Evandro Torres (Ortiz).

John Ortiz as Detective Torres.

This was James Gandolfini’s last movie before his death of a heart attack in 2013, aged just 51, and it’s dedicated to him. He delivers his usual exemplary performance, initially, through apparent bluff bonhomie, deceiving us as much as the other characters about Marv’s true, ruthless nature. But to be honest the performances that draw the eye are elsewhere. Site favorite Noomi Rapace contributes yet another splendid turn, this time not in her kickass mode but, quite the contrary, as the rather vulnerable ex-junkie Nadia.

Ann Dowd as Dottie.

While Rapace is exceptional here, it’s Tom Hardy who takes the laurels with a quite eye-opening interpretation of the anonymous, seemingly timid guy whom no one ever really notices but who has more inner steel than any of them. As Detective Torres says to him toward the end in something like admiration, “No one ever sees you coming, do they, Bob?” In some ways the characterization bears resemblances to Dustin Hoffman’s David Sumner in STRAW DOGS (1971). Although the contexts could hardly be more different, in that one’s a modestly educated barman and the other’s a cutting-edge mathematician, they both offer the same diffidence, the same inarticulacy, the same curtaining off of their emotions.

Matthias Schoenaerts as Eric.

While there’s an amount of gore in The Drop, in a sense the movie’s quite a ruminative one, a character study of a man—an everyman—and his mutt. As Bob says at the outset,

There are places in my neighborhood no one ever thinks about. You see them every day and every day you forget about them.

The description could, with just a little adjustment, be applied to Bob himself.

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