Every so often, Cousin Marv’s Bar in Brooklyn is used as a ‘drop bar’ for the criminals and thieves of the city to launder their cash. When the bar is robbed one night, the eye of suspicion falls on Marv himself (James Gandolfini) and his bartender Bob (Tom Hardy). Meanwhile, Bob finds an abandoned pitbull puppy and, as he and Nadia (Noomi Rapace) grow closer over the puppy, a jealous ex emerges to wreak havoc.
Although we all believed at the time that Enough Said was James Gandolfini’s last film, here we are again in The Drop; a film that feels much more in keeping with the actor’s back catalogue, but not necessarily a film that stands testament to him as an actor.
Tom Hardy treads a thin line as Bob; for much of the film it is not incredibly clear whether Bob is a simpleton or an incredibly clever man with little to say. Hardy allows the audience to change their mind several times throughout the film; such is the power of his performance. Hardy’s Brooklyn accent also helps matters, as does his tenacious determination to hold on to the dog he found. James Gandolfini plays a familiar role as Marv; this small time gangster with a hidden agenda is something we have seen a million times before, so it is not surprise that he does well with the part, even if he allows Hardy to completely steal the show.
Noomi Rapace plays Nadia as a stereotypical beaten woman with a dangerous past, who is determined to find herself a nice guy, despite all her insecurities; thus a similar, but less interesting role than the one she played in Dead Man Down. Matthias Schoenaerts hides away the impressive physique he displayed in Rust and Bone to play a small time crook with his eyes on the prize; he’s intimidating at first, but a lack of development leads to the character becoming annoying and distracting.
Dennis Lehane – writer of Shutter Island and Mystic River – adapts his own short story, Animal Rescue, for the screen here. Perhaps it is down to the fact that The Drop is based on a short story, but almost everything about the screenplay feels drawn out and elongated. This helps Tom Hardy’s performance, as his character is softly and slowly spoken, but it means that the pacing of the film is a mess. Also, there are simply two strands of story woven together here, but it feels like there is a whole lot more going on than there actually is.
Director Michaël R. Roskam, whose film Bullhead was Oscar nominated, does his best to allow the tension of the film to build, but since the story is rather obvious and predictable, it is hard to insert tension. Roskam coaxes great performances from Hardy and Schoenaerts, but then allows Gandolfini and Rapace to coast, hidden under the shadow of two strong actors, and never allows the pace of the film to pick up.
In all, The Drop is a film that lives and dies with Tom Hardy’s performance… And the dog. Although there is just about enough her for the film to be entertaining, Gandolfini and Rapace are sidelined in this drawn out, predictable and familiar film.