September 13, 2014

Movie Review: The Drop (2014)

The Drop is an interesting movie. It is not a great one, nor is it one that is likely to be remembered by hordes of cinema fans in years to come, but it is also not one that is likely to ever fade away. It will be first notable in a way similar to The Imaginarium of Dr. Panassus as the final film from a good actor who passed before his time. Heath Ledger for Parnassus and James Gandolfini for The Drop. Fortunately, both films are good and benefit from their respective late actors presence. Now, while I did enjoy the movie, it still feels like a movie with the masquerade of depth rather than actual depth.

Dennis Lehane penned the screenplay based on his own novel. Lehane is a name that should sound familiar, he has previously had a number of his novels adapted to the big screen. Movies he is responsible for include Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island. That is a solid resume, if you ask me. Gone Baby Gone remains the best directed film by Ben Affleck and I really liked Shutter Island (great pairing of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio). This may be the weakest of that bunch, but it is hardly a bad film. In the director's chair is Michael R. Roskam, making his English language feature debut as a follow up to 2011's Bullhead in his native Belgium.

The title refers to bars used by the criminal underworld to move their cash around. It is not always the same bar, but the bar whose turn it is has the great responsibility to make sure that nothing bad happens to said money. The bar at the center of this film is called Cousin Marv's and it used to be owned by Marv (Gandolfini). It is now owned by some of the criminals who funnel money through its doors, I think. Anyway, Bob (Tom Hardy) is the bartender, he is quiet, unassuming, but seems to have a lot more going on under the surface.

One night, as the bar closes, they are robbed by a pair of robbers who may or may not know what they are getting themselves into. Bob may look like he should be acting like mob muscle, barely lifts a finger as they make off with the money. This is where things begin to boil a little in this simmering run of a movie.

So, on one side you have the stolen money being a focus, on the other side you have Bob, who seems more or less content to just tend bar. One night, as he walks home, he hears barking coming from a garbage can. He takes the lid off the can and finds a pitbull puppy, beaten and bloodied. This leads to Bob meeting Nadia (Noomi Rapace). In a romantic comedy this would be their meet cute. Anyway, Bob ends up taking the puppy in, naming him Rocco. This simple act is not as easy as it should be. A lowlife named Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts, who reminds me of Jeremy Sisto) shows up, claiming to be the dog's rightful owner.

All right, on one side you have the drama surrounding the stolen money and on the other is Bob and his dog, Rocco. Somehow, these threads manage to find their way together to give us a somewhat exciting third act as secrets are revealed and people are forced to do things they may not have otherwise.

I find The Drop to be a little difficult to describe. It may ultimately be a standard crime potboiler, but it is approached in a slightly different fashion. You have Bob and the dog, Marv and his reluctance to seemingly do much of anything, the mystery of love interest Nadia, the detective sniffing around, and whatever secrets Bob holds.

It is not a bad movie, but it seems to rely on the performances and the actors ability to convey more than what the screenplay holds, as well as give importance to dialogue that dances around the situation. It strikes me that there really isn't a lot here. If you step back and look at the situation and characters, there is not much going on, but the quality of the actors and their performances gives the illusion of depth, it makes it seem like there is more than there is, or that there should be more than it is.

It is a pretty neat trick. That illusion of depth does elevate the feature somewhat. I admit, Tom Hardy's seemingly slow witted performance here is rather mesmerizing. The guy is a really good actor and I could see him growing into Charles Bronson type roles. The quiet tough guy with a fire burning behind the eyes. Gandolfini also turns in a good performance. I admit to never really being a Soprano's guy, but he is a good actor and his shadow falls across a lot of the story here, exerting a presence that a lesser actor would not come close to. Then there is Noomi Rapace, an actress I really like, and while she is all right here, she does not really have a lot to do until she is relegated to damsel in distress.

Overall, The Drop is certainly entertaining and holds the attention, is not a great one. In the end, it is worth checking out for the solid acting and the puppy, if not for the overall story itself. You will walk out marveling over the performances, but wondering why you cared about the rest of it. But, man, if Tom Hardy isn't really good here.

Mildly Recommended.

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