Monday, 10 November 2014
FILM REVIEW: THE DROP
20th Century Fox Films
Adapted by acclaimed crime writer, Dennis Lehane, from his own short story, Animal Rescue, The Drop is a low-key crime drama with an emphasis on mood over tension, and character over action. That's not necessarily a problem when you have actors like Tom Hardy, Matthias Schoenaerts, and James Gandolfini (in one of his final screen roles) doing their thing.
These guys are a pleasure to behold even as their characters test our loyalty or merely confirm our suspicions as we work our way through the murky milieu of director Michael R. Roskam's film. Set on the cold wintry streets and in the dingy bars of New York, The Drop unfolds at a deliberate pace, punctuated by bursts of action and violence; the first of which is a robbery on the bar once owned by Marv (Gandolfini), and where his cousin, Bobby (Hardy), serves the drinks.
The bar is also one of the many pick-up points for laundered money belonging to Russian (or East European?) mobsters, and when the joint is robbed late one night (yes, that's young Australian actor, James Frecheville, from Animal Kingdom as one of the gunmen), Marv and Bobby are under pressure to get the five grand back; without giving mob boss Chovka (Michael Aronov) cause to think they were involved, or rousing the suspicions of Detective Torres (John Ortiz) who is handling the case.
It's a man's world depicted in The Drop, one with an unspoken code and serious consequences for those who break it. Still, Hardy manages to give one of his softer characterizations yet. His Bobby is somewhat of a simpleton but when push comes to shove -- and when his girl and his dog are threatened -- a switch is flicked, and Bobby reveals his true colours and ultimately bares his soul.
That aforementioned girl is Nadia (Noomi Rapace, also with her edges softened), whom Bobby meets when late one night he finds a cute but injured puppy dumped in her trash bin. The dog and the girl both serve to leaven the sea of testosterone in The Drop but this fledgling romance -- between Bobby and Nadia, and a man and his dog (2014 seems to be the year for that sort of thing) -- further complicates Bobby's life.
Both Nadia and Rocco (as the dog is christened) once belonged to a mentally questionable low-level crim, Eric Deeds (Schoenaerts, unrecognizable from 2012's Rust and Bone, hovers between comical and menacing), a man who doesn't give up on those that he believes are his, even after he's thrown them away.
This triangle will come to a head, as will Marv's clandestine manoeuvrings, in the bar late in the evening of that annual American man-fest, the Super Bowl. It's here where The Drop ratchets up the tension and finally stirs from the almost-slumber it's been unfolding within.
While by no means boring, Lehane's screenplay proves, if anything, that a page-turner doesn't always make for a potboiler. Or that stretching a short story to a 100-page screenplay is necessarily a good idea, even if the characters are there. And it's the characters -- and fine character actors -- who reward your patience in The Drop.