In Brooklyn, there is a series of “drop bars” where the illegal money from criminal jobs can be left. The person running the bar doesn’t know how much money is in these secret hidey-holes. Their job is to look the other way and say nothing while the money comes in. Later, someone from higher up the food chain arrives and clears out the drop-literally a makeshift safe of some kind-and eventually the bar manager will get some small kickback for their trouble.
The drop bar in THE DROP is named after the current manager and former owner of the bar Marv (James Gandolfini). Marv is a bitterly disappointed man in his fifties. He feels he lost the respect of the neighbourhood when he was pressured out of the business. He spends his days complaining to his sidekick and younger cousin Bob (Tom Hardy). We get the idea that Marv is biding his time until retirement. Despite being in his thirties, Bob seems ready to retire, too. The bar is rundown, but does okay business for its current Chechen owners. The real money is in the drop and Marv and Bob see hardly any of that.
One day, Bob finds an injured pit-bull in the neighbourhood. This incident leads to his meeting Nadia (Noomi Rapace). He has no idea how to get involved with this guarded woman. Being a rather solitary character, he isn’t adept at small talk. If Bob ever had social skills, they’re long gone. The story unfolds slowly and steadily; the drop, the pit-bull and Nadia strands are woven together with care and skill. The small world we are given entry to is almost entirely Marv’s and Bob’s. They barely communicate. Habit and a stunted idea of family loyalty is what keeps them together. In a way, Bob has spent the last few years sleepwalking through life. Now he senses that trouble is brewing. He can’t pinpoint where it’s coming from, so he is forced awake from his stupor.
Tom Hardy continues his star trajectory. Movies like this one and LOCKE allow him to show his acting chops, whereas THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and the upcoming MAD MAX: FURY ROAD increase his bankability. As the slow-talking Bob, he plays a thoughtful character who considers every move; a rarity in his circle. He’s a man who wants to stay under the radar and he makes it clear to Nadia that despite working at a drop bar, he wants no part of ‘The Life.”
The late James Gandolfini is good here, although he has been better. There is a muted quality to his performance. In the second half of the picture he has more to do and his scenes lift. Noomi Rapace, best known by the punters as the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo plays a skittish, damaged woman, hardly more awake than Bob. Nadia is not so different from the character Rapace plays in the thriller DEAD MAN DOWN (2013). She has the market cornered on unconventionally beautiful, prickly enigmatics in small crime movies.
This is Belgian director Michaël R. Roskam’s first English language feature. He has created an atmospheric feature from the short story Animal Rescue, written by best-selling crime author Dennis Lehane. Lehane’s work is known to filmgoers through the movie adaptations of his novels, MYSTIC RIVER (2003), GONE BABY GONE (2007) and SHUTTER ISLAND (2010). THE DROP is the first time he has adapted one of his own novels for the screen.
THE DROP is a slow-burning, satisfying piece of cinema, with a great central performance from Hardy. Nothing feels forced or rushed in this tale of low-rent crime in a bleak place where the pickings are slim. It runs for 107 minutes and is in limited release in Australian cinemas now. I rated it a 8/10.