Late August through September is the most frustrating time of the year for movie audiences. The summer blockbusters have already passed and the following month and a half usually contains nothing but fillers and afterthoughts during the transition from blockbuster season to Oscar season. "The Drop" is the kind of film that’s well-done and well-acted, but isn’t interesting or ambitious enough to be included in the year’s list of nominees and winners.
Tom Hardy leads the film as Bob Saginowski, a Brooklyn man working in his cousin’s bar. He knows all about the organized crime in his neighborhood, but plainly insists, “they’re not my people, I just tend bar.” His cousin Marv’s (James Gandolfini) bar is robbed one night and the thieves make off with $5,000 belonging to the neighborhood Chechen crime leaders, and it’s up to Bob and Marv to get it back.
On the other end of the film, Bob finds a beaten and abandoned pit bull puppy, and out of his own morality takes it upon himself to adopt the dog and protect it from its previous owner, detestably played by Matthias Schoenaerts, while also protecting his new friend and dog sitter, Nadia (Noomi Rapace).
The progression of this film is a slow one. The only thing that keeps the majority of the film mildly interesting is the adorable pit bull, Rocco. He clearly stands as a symbol for the life Bob wants and believes he has, while Marv and the Chechens keep pulling him into their gritty world of coercion and murder. The movie does a good job of making Rocco's significance apparent, but he feels missing from a good portion of the movie.
Aside from that, it feels like a long time to get from the beginning to the end, despite the film clocking in at less than two hours. Not until the talking finally stops and people actually start taking drastic actions to protect their businesses, their street cred and Rocco, all leading up to one mother of an ending, does this movie show why Hardy is one of the most under-celebrated actors in Hollywood.
Bob is arguably Tom Hardy’s most complex role in years, and he plays him beautifully. Brooklyn accent and all, Bob believes himself to be a good man and above all the criminals and lowlifes around him, but he won’t hesitate to do what’s necessary to protect the few people he cares about. The less that’s said about his character, the better, but Hardy’s quiet, understated performance totally captures both sides of who Bob really is and who he wants to be.
“The Drop” also makes for a fitting swan song for the late James Gandolfini. Cousin Marv is a hard, bitter man willing to get his hands dirty for the organized crime rings, but also has a soft spot for his family, and the dark, gritty tone of the movie makes a solemn tribute to the actor’s better known role in “The Sopranos.” Gandolfini and Hardy’s several conversations make up some of the highlights of the film both as a boss and employee as well as family.
Though it has a noble story, “The Drop” is not one of the year’s highlights. The cinematography and editing are fairly standard and the soundtrack sparse and not particularly emphasized, leaving it all up to the acting and writing. And while all the actors are great in their respective roles (especially Rocco), the pacing of the film makes it a real challenge to remain engaged all the way to the very end. Regardless, “The Drop” is a well-crafted crime drama, and a good stepping stone on the way to the year’s big contenders.