Tom Hardy has taken tough guy portrayals to new levels. Some actors naturally lean towards playing tough characters. It’s hard to see them as anything else. Hardy has that lean but he has managed to offer a number of cool variations. He has played a comic book villain, an MMA fighter, a moonshiner, and a Cold War Russian Agent just to name a few. In “The Drop” he gives us yet another bend to the tough guy character and just as before he does it exceptionally well.
“The Drop” is a Brooklyn crime drama based on a Dennis Lehane short story. Lehane also wrote the screenplay with Michaël R. Roskam directing. Hardy plays a inner city bartender named Bob Saginowski. He works at “Cousin Marv’s”, a bar ran by his appropriately named cousin (played by James Gandolfini in his final role). Marv recently handed his bar to Chechen gangsters who now use it as a drop for money they have coming in.
At closing time two hoods rob the place at gunpoint stealing a load of the Chechen’s money. The gangsters hold Marv and Bob responsible leading them to desperately search for a way out of their predicament. Marv is bullish and old school in his approach to things while Bob is much quieter and a bit of an introvert. This effects how each go about handling what appears to be a dire situation.
Bob is the main character and we learn a lot about him through a dog (of all things). He finds the abused pup in a trashcan belonging to a neighbor named Nadia (Noomi Rapace). The two spark a reluctant relationship which is complicated by her estranged thuggish boyfriend Eric (well played by Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts). The intensity ratchets up as Bob’s bar troubles and his relationship with Nadia come dangerously close to colliding.
Lehane’s script simmers and never allows the story to blow up into an everyday crime thriller. Roskam’s direction keeps thing under control and allows the script and the actors room to work among the seeping tension. I kept expecting it to turn towards the obvious and conventional. It never does. It’s surprisingly calculated and strategic in how it sets up and delivers its story points.
It also doesn’t hurt to have two superb lead performances. Hardy comes across as strikingly genuine and natural – a seamless and perfect fit for his character. Galdolfini’s work is a clear but sad reminder of his immense talents in front of the camera. His ability to absorb the audience in the complexities of his Marv character is a key to the film’s success.
It could be said that there is nothing particularly new or profound about “The Drop”. It’s hard to argue against that view. But at the same time it is a well-made film that may be small in cinematic stature but big in terms of smart and precise storytelling. Toss in a fine cast to help tell your story and the results are sure to be even more promising. Such is the case with “The Drop”.
VERDICT – 4 STARS