Michael R. Roskam’s Brooklyn set crime thriller, The Drop, is a deceptively pleasant nasty piece of work.
While walking home from work at his cousin Marv’s bar, Bob hears the heart-tugging yelps of a pit bull puppy in the trashcan of the unsuspecting Nadia. Left with no choice but to rescue the poor dog, Bob is also drawn to Nadia, and thus blooms a romance. The Drop is one of those “feel-good two lost souls getting together while raising a pet” movies that just so happens to take place inside a gritty little crime flick. You see, Marv’s bar isn’t an ordinary dive, but a key drop bar for money flowing into a Chechen crime ring. And that dog was dumped by Nadia’s ex, Eric, a scumbag who may have been involved in the disappearance of a former friend of Marv and Bob ten years earlier. Adapted for the screen from his own short story “Animal Rescue” by Dennis Lehane, Roskam’s film is oddly paced but still wholly satisfying, where everyone plays their parts effectively, and all of the carefully crafted pieces fall towards a tense and tidy, albeit unpredictable, conclusion.
As Bob, Tom Hardy, with a tonally perfect Brooklyn accent, immerses himself wholly into the milieu of a poker-faced man who isn’t about to let on to anyone how far caught up he is in this shady underworld. He treats the rescued pup like a child, and he earnestly pursues Nadia knowing that everyone has a past. As Nadia, the stern Noomi Rapace smiles and laughs for what seems like the first time on film, revealing a sexy vulnerability. Marv is played by the late great James Gandolfini, whose typecasting comes across as a welcome bit of nostalgia. And Matthias Schoenaerts plays the role of Eric with spot-on scummy alacrity, and like Hardy, is a European who masters the American accent. Also on hand is the solid John Ortiz as a detective who knows he’s probably never going to catch these guys but still wants them to know he knows who they are and what they did.
Lehane and Roskam tailor the action to the best parts of their cast, and The Drop becomes a film filled with small pleasures for genre fans without ever becoming grotesque or overly stylistic. The topsy-turvy camerawork as money is dropped on the climactic night of the Super Bowl is a nice touch that helps build the tension and foreshadow the flipping of fate. Earlier there’s a great little scene where Marv casually tricks a human piece of trash and runs him over with his car multiple times. Other bits involving a sinister umbrella and the handling of a severed arm just add to the amusement.
While it’s not going to set the cinematic world on fire, The Drop is a cold piece of work with a surprising heart, anchored by good writing, strong direction and a game cast. As such, it deserves to become a sleeper hit this fall season.
Written by David H. Schleicher