Gandolfini’s final film performance.
“There are some sins that you commit that you can’t come back from.” Articulated by Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy), this line could be applied to each of the characters in Michaël R. Roskam’s The Drop. Set in Brooklyn, the film is based on Dennis Lehane’s short story Animal Rescue. Bob’s cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) runs the busiest bar in town, which we’re informed is often utilised as a ‘drop bar’ – a place where the money exchanged around town finds a final keeping place. Essentially, it’s money you wouldn’t steal, because you’d have not only Marv, but the most dangerous people in town to deal with. So when the bar is robbed at gunpoint, and their money is stolen, it unlocks a world that seemingly only seasoned inhabitants could survive.
To further bloat Bob’s accountabilities, he finds a severely wounded puppy in a garbage can in the front yard of Nadia (Noomi Rapace). She has no knowledge of the dog’s presence on her property, and eventually leaves Bob in charge of caring for the injured animal. The two forge a bond over this responsibility, and the viewer is invited to find parallels between the circumstances surrounding the dog’s ownership and the blossoming relationship between Bob and Nadia.
To discuss the strengths in this film, one must first look to the performances by not only the lead actors, but those in supporting roles too. Hardy is brilliant as Bob; he manages to give such nuance and gravity to a character that isn’t without its flaws. He continues to prove that he is one of Hollywood’s most compelling players, and appears to thrive opposite Gandolfini’s genius. In his final onscreen performance, Gandolfini perfectly embodies the life of a character that is past his prime, yet still yearns for the power and respect that is synonymous with a life of crime. Rapace is perfect in the role of Nadia; she is able to oscillate seamlessly between being vulnerable to being tough within the same scene, and displays the right amount of vulnerability without being too predictable. Her scenes with the mysterious Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) are particularly amusing. Australian actor James Frecheville and John Ortiz are great in their supporting roles also, and contribute to the overall value of the film.
Lehane, who wrote the screenplay as well as the short story on which the film is based, also penned the novels Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island. Each of these titles have been adapted to film by Clint Eastwood, Ben Affleck and Martin Scorsese respectively, and they all share elements of noir that place particular emphasis on character and morality. As well as this, the role of location is integral to the overall mood of the film. Brooklyn serves as the perfect location for The Drop, with its snow-covered and desolate backstreets providing the perfect landscape for the events that transpire. The music underscoring the film demonstrates the perfect amount of restraint, which complements the moody ambiance of the film.
With an Oscar nomination already under his belt for Best Foreign Film (Bullhead, 2011), Roskam has created a film that showcases his propensity for subject matter that sheds light on the human condition. With The Drop, he manages to breathe new life into a story that may seem familiar, but is strengthened by a stellar cast and superior direction. Overall, The Drop is an excellent film, with its strengths stemming from the performances and Roskam’s understated direction. If you enjoy a good crime caper, this one is for you.