There’s more than enough to like about The Drop, a crime drama from Mystic River writer Dennis Lehane. A compelling story moves rhythmically and deliberately towards a violent conclusion; a slice-of-the-underworld setting in a possibly bygone version of Brooklyn is convincingly rendered; a spot-on performance by James Gandolfini covers for captivating, if slightly frantic, turns by Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace.
The 400-Word-Review: The Drop
By Sean Collier
September 15, 2014
From a distance, though, there’s very little connecting the characters to the stories they’re acting out. The tale may be interesting, but I’m not sure I believe it.
Bob (Hardy) and Marv (Gandolfini) operate a bare-bones pub under the thumb of the Chechen mafia. When they’re held up at gunpoint, the mobsters place the responsibility for the money on Marv’s head. Meanwhile, Bob finds an abandoned puppy in a trash can belonging to Nadia (Rapace); he takes the pooch in, but a lowlife with ties to a laundry list of related offenses (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a little too interested in the pup’s ownership.
If the dog seems disconnected, know that it serves more as a metaphor than anything else, though it is tightly tied to the narrative. Nothing about the scene-to-scene movement of The Drop feels random or arbitrary; as a minor mystery and a sleepy thriller, it does fine. The more we learn about our characters, though, the trickier things get.
To explain much would spoil nearly everything, but suffice it to say that most of the principles here are presented one way despite acting another. This could be deliberate in some cases, but the characters don’t come off as authentic for it; rather, they seem kneecapped by a story that’s pushing them in unnatural directions. To be fair, this is only a problem that’ll emerge under scrutiny, but it’s one that’ll prevent The Drop from having much lasting resonance.
Undoubtedly, though, it’s an impressive film while it’s playing. Some of this is owed to Belgian director Michaël R. Roskam, working in English for the first time; the score by Marco Beltrami also adds power. Perhaps The Drop’s most compelling argument — and certainly the reason it’ll be remembered — is that performance by Gandolfini, his last. While his previous posthumously-released feature Enough Said saw the actor playing against type, here he is fully entrenched in the tone that made him famous. Like many après-mort performances, it’s a demonstration of how much the actor had left to offer.
My Score: 6/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark