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Josh Reviews The Drop

October 22nd, 2014
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Written by Dennis Lehane (adapting his own short story), The Drop is an extraordinary crime story, one that is hugely compelling and brutally tough.  I loved it.

Tom Hardy plays Bob, the bartender at a small dive in Brooklyn called Cousin Marv’s.  Marv, played by James Gandolfini, doesn’t really own the bar — it’s owned by the mob, and the bar serves as a “drop” where money can be deposited to be laundered.  Marv was once a power player, but now he operates on the fringes.  Bob doesn’t seem to be involved much with any criminal activity, though he’s certainly aware of what happens at Cousin Marv’s bar.  One night two young punks rob the bar.  The mobsters who own the place put pressure on Cousin Marv and Bob to recover their money.  Meanwhile, Bob has begun a tentative relationship with a neighborhood girl, Nadia (Noomi Rapace), after he finds a beaten-up dog in her garbage can and the two start caring for the dog together.  But Nadia has a violent ex-boyfriend who isn’t happy about another man hanging out with the woman who he still considers to be his girl.

These might seem like familiar story tropes, but in the film they are fantastically compelling and unfold in original ways.  The film is an electrifying slow burn, with the tension slowly ratcheting up and up and up until it is nearly unbearable.  I watched the entire last half-hour or so of the film from the edge of my seat.  You spend the whole film knowing that things are going to turn ugly, and you also spend the whole film wondering just how these stories are going to connect.  When they do, it’s an incredible pay-off.

The cast is magnificent.  James Gandolfini is unforgettable in his final major role, playing a man past his prime who is desperate to recapture the moment, now long in the fast, when he was somebody.  Cousin Marv is not Tony Soprano, but he has ambitions to be.  Watching Mr. Gandolfini work in the film twists the knife of his tragic loss.  What a shame this phenomenal actor is gone.

Noomi Rapace has always had something of an otherworldly quality to her, and while I have enjoyed her work before this is the first role in which I really connected to her.  Nadia is as much an enigma to the audience as she is to Bob.  We don’t quite know, until the end, exactly what her play is or what secrets she may be hiding.  And yet, she is as irresistibly compelling to the audience as she is to Bob.  Ms. Rapace brings great humanity to the role, giving Nadia a rich inner life and imbuing her with just the right air of mystery, and just enough of a magnetic quality, that we are hooked.

Then there is Tom Hardy, who is absolutely extraordinary in the lead role as Bob.  What an amazing actor Mr. Hardy has become.  This is a tour de force performance, an astounding demonstration of his skills.  Bob is a puzzle to us as the film begins to unfold.  He seems to be a very simple guy, almost an innocent (in the early scenes I wasn’t sure if we were meant to think that Bob had some sort of mental deficiency), and yet he’s tough enough to be able to work at a mob bar.  With every moment of the film, Mr. Hardy slowly and confidently allows us to peel back the layers of this character, drawing us in and hooking us into his tale.  When it all comes together in the climax, Mr. Hardy sells every moment with incredible power and assurance.  This is a staggering performance, and I am eager to see this movie again some time soon mostly so I can soak in more of the nuances of Mr. Hardy’s work.

Dennis Lehane has crafted another wonderfully bleak, take-no-prisoners yarn.  Many of Mr. Lehane’s novels have been adapted into great films (including Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone), but I believe this is his first film screenplay.  It is incredible.  Such a smart, taut script.  I am not familiar with the work of Danish director Michael Roskam, but after this I will be paying attention.

I don’t want to say much more about this movie, it’s best to go in knowing little, and just letting the story take you.  Don’t miss this one, friends.

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