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The Drop - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Drop
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Tom Hardy is the kind of actor whose underrated status is actually an indication of his talent. One moment he's playing supervillain in The Dark Knight Rises; the next he's a mild-mannered British cheater spending the entire movie driving a car in Locke. Blink and suddenly he's a Brooklyn bartender facing dueling criminal challenges in The Drop, based on a short story by Dennis Lehane (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River). The quality of these movies varies a bit, but the quality of Hardy's performance does not.

Here, he plays mild-mannered Bob, coming across as deceptively innocent. There's something about the continuously dumbfounded, almost lost look on his face -- there's just the subtlest hint of something unstable. He works at a bar once owned, and still named after and managed by, Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini, in his final film appearance). Marv resentfully operates the joint while it's owned by Chechen gangsters. These guys use a revolving roster of bars as the drop-off point for their dirty money (hence the title), and fairly early on in the film, Marv's bar gets held up and the dropped money taken.

And so begins a series of events that take several turns you don't see coming. This sounds like a whole lot of other movies, and to a degree it is, but the experience of this particular story still has the feeling of something different. The script, adapted by Lehane himself, is tightly constructed, with just the right things kept a mystery and certain reveals occurring at just the right times. Tension is mounted and sustained with a unique nuance. Of course I can't reveal anything specific without them being major spoilers. It's that kind of movie: the less you know about it before going in, the better.

And then there's the dog. (The original short story was called Animal Rescue.) Bob, on his way home, finds a beaten and bloody Pit Bull puppy in someone's front-yard garbage can. The woman inside comes out, and this is how Bob meets Nadia (Noomi Rapace). Neither of them want the dog to go to a shelter, but Bob has no experience caring for dogs. Nadia helps him get set up for it. There's a budding attraction here, which is perhaps the pivotal element of the plot, but refreshingly, The Drop doesn't go straight to the sex -- and never does, really. That's just potential, something only tangentially related.

Nadia does have an ex-boyfriend, mentally unstable Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), who not only says he was the one who killed a beloved neighborhood friend nearly a decade before, but begins stalking Bob and insisting the dog is actually his.

While Bob is dealing with Nadia and Eric, Cousin Marv is contending with the ramifications of the hold-up. Is Eric Deeds in any way connected to the holdup, or the Chechens? These are the budding questions, which get satisfyingly unexpected answers in due time.

The Drop is directed by Michaël R. Roskam, an impressive piece of work for his first English-language feature. The original story was set in Boston, but changed to Brooklyn for the film due to Boston having been overplayed over the past decade in crime films. The switch works; the characters, right down to the bit parts, feel authentic -- well, at least for those of us who never actually lived in New York. In any case, a movie like this is often fatally contrived, but this one has no such issue. These are all characters, most of them sympathetic, with multiple dimensions. It's the rare specimen of the crime drama that actually grabs you from the beginning, keeps you guessing, and wanting more until the end.

James Gandolfini and Tom Hardy face Brooklyn crime challenges in THE DROP.

Overall: B+
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