The Drop

Playing now at Grant Park & Polo Park Cinemas

Perhaps the most talked-about attribute of The Drop is that it marks the final screen appearance of actor James Gandolfini, who passed away last year. The movie is a fitting send-off, but it’s much more than that. This modest little crime drama from Belgian director Michaël R. Roskam is maybe the first great film of the fall movie season.

The Drop is the story of Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) and Cousin Marv (Gandolfini), two Brooklynites who run a bar owned by the Chechen mob (which is, apparently, a thing). When the bar gets robbed, the Chechens get suspicious. Couple this with the fact that Bob is being blackmailed over an abused dog he’s rescued, and things start getting pretty tense in the neighbourhood.

The screenplay is by Dennis Lehane, whose novels have been adapted into such films as Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island. His depiction of petty criminality is refreshingly naturalistic. He never stylizes or romanticizes it, but simply lets it exist as a malignant threat.

There are a number of dangers circling around Bob, and we get the sense that everything is connected: not because of some conspiracy, but because that’s how small neighbourhoods work. To call the ending a “twist” would cheapen it. It isn’t a plot contrivance. It’s a piece of information that’s been in front of us the whole time. We just haven’t noticed it. And when we do, it’s organic instead of shocking, an a-ha moment.

Tom Hardy reasserts himself as one of the finest living actors. It’s amazing that he, so hulking and so British, very convincingly becomes a ratty Brooklyn towny. He’s channeling Brando in On the Waterfront, big time. The whole film is almost a riff on Waterfront, with an essentially good protagonist who’s complacent in an immoral operation. With an outstanding supporting cast of bit players, The Drop is worth seeing for its performances alone. But there’s so much more.

Published in Volume 69, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 17, 2014)

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