New York's Discreet Moneychangers Meet At The Drop
A little New York bar may serve many who wish to drink and socialize, but few know another purpose this bar serves. It is a place where payoffs and other illegal gains change hands. When something goes wrong, the owners want answers in The Drop. Tom Hardy stars as Bob, a bartender at Cousin Marv's bar, who quietly does the things he's told. The bar's namesake, Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), a one-time loan shark, remains in charge of the daily operations. However, Cousin Marv's gets a visit from masked armed robbers, who rob the bar and bushwack a man who's just received a payoff. Police arrive, led by Detective Torres (John Ortiz), but neither Bob mor Marv say much. Torres, though, does recognize Bob from his parish, and the detective has noticed that Bob isn't the typical churchgoer.
Other unusual things start to happen as the Chechin mobsters who were supposed to get the stolen cash demand their money and ask around the neighborhood themselves. On the way home one night, Bob finds an injured and abandoned pit bull puppy in the garbage. The noise Bob makes gets the attention of Nadia (Noomi Rapace), a waitress who helps Bob, but says she can't keep the puppy herself. She does, however, agree to dogsit for Bob when he's at work. As Bob starts to bond with his pet and with Nadia, Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), a former mental patient who admittedly killed an old bar patron, approaches Bob and claims the dog is his, and can prove it with an ID chip in the dog. Marv, meanwhile, vows to ask around and find the robbers. He gets a break though, when the money returns in a plastic bag. Eric, though, continues to tail Nadia and Bob, and tells Bob that he'll need to pay $10,000 if he wants to keep his animal. This happens as Bob is left to tend bar for himself on Super Bowl Sunday, and Cousin Marv's will be the location of another drop that night.
The Drop, which is based on Dennis Lehane's short story Animal Rescue, is a tense film noir from director Michael Roskam, who makes his American film debut here. Many things in the movie seem normal, but a few events seem odd as the characters try to resolve the questions concerning the robbery and the abandoned dog. For example, when Nadia sees Bob retrieving the puppy, she asks him for ID, then takes a picture of his driver's license. Suspicion turns to kindness, though, as she talks about her past and her current job situation. Marv also shares stories about his past, where people didn't cross him. At home, his sister Dottie (Ann Dowd) has been hinting that she wants them to move from there. Bob quietly goes about his business, knowing things most bartenders don't need to know as a part of their work. Lehane himself wrote the script, and does well to keep viewers guessing how the incidents connect. Roskam shows viewers around a community where nothing is very pertty, and so many actions can be dangerous.
The performances are also filled with people who have accepted a darker reality. Hardy, who's probably best known as Batman's nemesis Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, quietly does as he's told, whether he's tending bar or not. Even though he unexpectedly gets a pet, he learns how to raise the animal, and protects it as much as he protects the secrets from the regulars at his cousin's establishment. He is the ultimate silent partner, and his easy-going nature with bar regulars perturbs Marv. In this, his final film, Gandolfini shows a controlled sense of anger as he wonders if he'll ever regain any part of the life he had as a younger man. He may hear what his sister has to say, but he's at the bar nearly every day, working to regain some sense of worth. Rapace offers kind words and some friendship as Nadia, but she, like Bob, keeps certain secrets to herself, and may be working an angle against Bob. Her past, though, includes Eric, and she gets a reminder of the danger he poses. Schoenaerts adds a quiet menace as Eric, who shows he can enter and exit places whenever he wants. He also seems to know how the bar works without ever demanding answers from Bob.
Everyone thinks of ways that might make their lives better. Most of those thoughts remain just that in a place like the neighborhood where the characters in The Drop live. So many people trudge through their days, but only a few of them find a way to make the best of their daily situation and personal struggles. Someone who adapts to such surroundings might have a chance to rise above them. Things, though, can change for the worse with just one wrong move.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Drop 3.5 stars. For the love of money, people will do some desperate things.