Based on a short story by Denis Lehane, The Drop is a slow-burning crime drama that revolves around a seedy bar in Brooklyn. Here, Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) serves the drinks, under the watchful eye of his cousin Marv (James Gandolphini in his final screen role.) The bar is a regular ‘drop’ for the Chechnyan gang lords who actually own the place, somewhere to deposit illicit money generated by drugs, prostitution, protection rackets… you name it. Over the years, Marv and Bob have learned that it’s safer to just go along with things, rather than bringing the wrath of their employers down on their heads. But when Bob chances upon a badly beaten puppy in a litter bin belonging to Nadia (Noomi Rapace) things get a little more complicated – she is the ex girlfriend of Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenearts) the puppy’s owner and a self-professed killer. It soon becomes clear that Deeds wants his dog (and Nadia) back – he doesn’t seem to make much distinction between the two of them. Then, an armed robbery at the bar relieves the ‘owners’ of $5,000 and it’s inevitable that the Chechnyans are going to want their money back…
Hardy is terrific in the lead role. He seems to be channeling Brando’s memorable turn as boxer Terry Molloy in On The Waterfront, delivering a hugely appealing character that seems as helpless as he is vulnerable. But in Lehane’s world, still waters run deep and there are a couple of twists in the narrative that are sure to take you by surprise. Gandolphini bows out in style, depicting a man who is impelled towards crime, not because of greed but by personal circumstance. This movie shows a side of America that we rarely see on film, an unabashedly blue collar world of grime, debt and criminal corruption. Though it takes its time to reveal the whole story, there’s a constant simmering threat of violence hanging over everything that happens and the conclusion, when it finally arrives, is brutal and shattering.
While in no way a ‘big’ movie, The Drop has a confident, engrossing narrative and is yet another notch in Hardy’s chameleon-like ability to portray characters from all continents and all walks of life. And it serves as a fine farewell for James Gandolphini, to whom the film is respectfully dedicated.