Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tom Hardy's Quiet Cool Shines in This New Crime Drama: Our Review of "The Drop" (2014)

Directed By:Michaël R. Roskam 

Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace

Rating: R for some strong violence and pervasive language

Run Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Synopsis: Bob (Hardy) and his cousin Marv (Gandolfini) run a bar for some Chechen mobsters that is occasionally used as a "drop bar" for the mob's money. After the bar is robbed one night, Bob's seemingly quiet life is turned anything but thanks to a decade-long investigation into a missing persons case related to his bar, needing to placate his employers and cousin, plus raising a puppy he finds in the trash one night that may somehow be involved in the investigation.


Andrew: Hello dear readers! We profusely apologize for our lack of activity on the blog. Over the past month we were on the road quite a bit taking some much needed vacation time, plus if we're being honest, there just weren't a lot of movies that we thought were worth our time and/or money.

Sarah: Let's put it this way: we've seen Guardians of the Galaxy three times instead of seeing anything else over the past month. So yeah...not many attractive movies.

A: Very good point. But September is here now, which generally means the end of Hollywood's second dumping season (January/February being the first), as well as the approach of Oscar season. Now that some movies we're actually interested in seeing are coming out again, we're back with a new review!

This past weekend we decided to catch the new crime drama The Drop, starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and the late James Gandolfini in what is his last film role. Interesting of note to me, The Drop was written by noted crime novelist Dennis Lehane (author of "Mystic River" and "Gone Baby Gone") and is based on his own short story. So even though this is director Michaël R. Roskam's first English-language film, the pedigree was big enough for me to be very interested in this film.

S: Hardy plays a quiet bartender named Bob, who works at his cousin Marv's place, with Gandolfini playing Marv. Marv is a bit bitter in life because he sold his bar to the Chechen mob years ago, and they now use his bar as a front and as a "drop bar" where their money is occasionally dropped off, hence the name of the movie!

Tom Hardy (right) and James Gandolfini star as Bob and Marv, respectively, who run a bar in Brooklyn
owned by Chechen mobsters.  This was Gandolfini's last film role before his death in 2013.

A: And the movie kickstarts when a pair of low-level criminals decide to rob the bar, which draws the ire of the Chechens. We'd also be remiss if we didn't mention that Bob's life is also turned upside-down a bit when he finds an abused pit bull puppy in a trash can. With the help of a woman named Nadia (Rapace), Bob adopts the puppy as his own, but unknown to him the puppy belongs to a crazy neighborhood thug/Nadia's ex-boyfriend named Eric Deeds, who claims to have killed a guy who disappeared from Marv's bar ten years prior.

S: So stuff gets tense pretty quickly in this one.

A: Indeed. So Sarah, I know this was a film that you weren't necessarily jumping a the bit to see, but now that we've seen The Drop, what did you think?

S: It was one I definitely could've waited for until it came out on home video, and it's one I think...will actually fly pretty below the radar for a while. I mean...at the same time it was as sold-out theatre so maybe I'm wrong there.

The Drop is a slow burn, it really is, and kinda all the while I knew it was going to escalate - which it does - but it takes a while to get there. And even when it did escalate, it escalates pretty quickly. It was like a FLASH and then it was over. So that was very interesting. 

What I think it was - what I'll give it praise for over anything else - was for being an excellent character study for a character who - at the end of it - you realize everything you think you know about this character? Turns out you knew nothing about him.

A: And you're talking about Tom Hardy's Bob.

S: Yeah.

A: And I'll agree with you on that sentiment a bit, but at the same time we still don't really learn a whole lot about Bob when the movie ends.

S: That's what I just said. I said what you think you know, kind of like that he's mild-mannered, really you realize that you know nothing about him.

A: Yeah, but what I'm saying is that throughout the entire film we don't really learn much about him to begin with. Like, it's like a curtain that's very slowly pealed back.

Because really the entire film I was watching it thinking to myself that a lot of people that see this movie probably aren't going to like Tom Hardy's character right from the get-go because he seems like a simpleton.

S: Yes, he does.

A: He's mild-mannered, he seems almost "slow" at times...

S: And he's just very quiet. He really has nothing to do with the whole mob business other than being a compliant employee. He's just very much going through the paces, doing his job, going home and that's it.

A: And his speech pattern...it's not stilted...it's sort of slow, but he's not stupid. That's the thing.

S: It's calculated, that's what you come to find out as the movie progresses.

A: Exactly. That's a good way to put it. And for that I absolutely loved this movie from that aspect, because Tom Hardy is SO good here. Hardy was the only real reason I wanted to see this movie to begin with because we love him.

S: Yeah, and I was interested in seeing James Gandolfini in his last role, too...

A: So was I, just to a lesser extent. But Hardy was the primary reason I wanted to see this movie and I'm glad we did because he is phenomenal. He's very understated, which he is in a lot of his films, but he's very emotive with his facial features. Just the smallest movements speak whole paragraphs for his character.

There's a scene that's not the climactic moment of the movie but it's a scene that's building up to it, at one point he just arches his eyebrow every so slightly and it just says so much about his character. And really I mean it's just the slightest movement, but it spoke volumes. I thought Hardy was fantastic here.

Following the robbery at his cousin's bar Bob is repeatedly questioned by John Ortiz's Detective Torres, who is determined
to solve a decade-long disappearance of a local man who was last seen at the bar.

What was it we were saying as we left the theatre? We were comparing this movie to another one we've seen before...

S: Oh, we were comparing this to Killing Them Softly starring Brad Pitt, which came out a couple of years ago, and we absolutely hated that one. It was another super slow movie, but that one just bored us out of our minds. With both films they take a while to get to where they're going, and when they get there you might probably say, "Okay what was the point of that?" But what makes The Drop so much better was that there was a constant sense of tension thourhgout the entire movie.

You knew that stuff was going on and that stuff was going to happen, but you never knew exactly when because there wasn't a blatant build-up to it. There was just kind of this overall arc of...okay, crap's gonna go down but WHEN? Really I was just waiting the whole time for Tom Hardy's Bob to snap...

A: Me too.

S: And to really kind of reveal his true nature. So that's one of the primary reasons I liked this one way better than Killing Them Softly. Killing Them Softly had none of that tension and build-up, it was just "blah" throughout the whole thing.

So this movie was really good. It's very interesting, whenever I watch Tom Hardy act...he's kind of one of these men that I watch and think, "You've got demons." And it comes through in his acting, and I think this movie - much like Warrior - is one of the ones where it comes through pretty prevalently. And I think that's....interesting, to see an actor who wears his emotions on his sleeve but at the same time you don't know where the emotions come from. He's very interesting to watch.

A: He's very interesting to watch, and again that's one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed this film. He's not on the screen the entire time but he's very, very prominent in the film. Lots of shots of just him, and he's very quiet for so much of it, and he's speaking volumes without actually saying anything.

S: And even mild-mannered and quiet he has a presence on the screen, which I think is so important.

A: He's also very cute with the puppy.

S: Oh my God, that puppy is totes adorbs.

A: And Hardy is very cute with, I should say Bob is such a sweetheart with the dog. It got a lot of laughs from the audience. It kind of broke up some of that tension at times which was good, but it also helped heighten the tension because you can see how much Bob cares for the dog.

Let's change gears for a bit here and talk about Gandolfini, because as we mentioned earlier, this was his last performance. I'll admit...I haven't always been the biggest fan of James Gandolfini. I don't really watch The Sopranos, I've maybe only seen ten total episodes...I've never loved him although I really liked him in Enough Said that he did with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which we watched a couple of months ago.

S: Yeah, that was a really good!

A: But I hated him in Killing Them Softly...

S: See, I had completely forgotten he was even in that.

Tom Hardy's mild-mannered Bob adopts an abandoned pit bull puppy he finds in a trash can. Suffice it
to say, the puppy is cute as hell, but is also a source of consternation for Bob in the film.

A: Yeah. I hated him in that, I don't like him in things like The Mexican and The Last Castle, or Not Fade Away. A lot of his film credits I'm just not a fan of. But I really liked him here because he was a little more understated than usual. And where Tom Hardy's understatement came in that he was just this mild-mannered guy, you could tell in Gandolfini's Marv that there was a fear in him throughout the entire film.

S: He's a man at the end of his rope. He's very desperate and he's pissed off because now he just runs a bar he used to own but sold to the Chechens.

I enjoyed his character here. I enjoyed Gandolfini as Tony Soprano and I really kind of got a Tony from The Sopranos in this movie, actually. Kind of that feeling of...more towards the end of the show's run. And he just really had that...that presence that you can tell he used to be somebody. So I enjoyed it for that, for being what he was.

So yeah, I think his role was definitely supporting to Tom Hardy's lead, but that desperation definitely came through. And he's kind of a one-note actor anyway, but this film I thought that was okay.

A: Okay, Noomi Rapace then. 

S: I felt like she was replaceable. I didn't...I didn't love her. She definitely plays that rough kind of girl from the neighborhood well. But I didn't feel like she was the only one for this role.

A: I think she played well off of Tom Hardy.

S: Eh, I think she had more chemistry with the dog, really. So yeah...that's about the extent I think about her in this film. What did you think about her?

A: Like you I could taken her or left her. Whatever. I felt she was fine for this. She did have this good ability to convey some dread and fear in the movie's proceedings, so that was important. I don't know. She wasn't the strongest aspect of the movie. This is really Tom Hardy's movie...

S: It really is. Him and the puppy.

A: But so, to wrap this up, it's truly not the easiest movie to review but I think you said it best when you said there's an undercurrent of tension throughout the film. It's constantly building up and it does it very well. There were a number of times during the film where I was holding your hand or had my hand on your leg and I was squeezing a little too tightly because I was getting tense. I needed to relax because I was getting nervous about what was going to happen. So I give the movie props for that.

And then what it all builds up to was great, in my opinion. This film also had a good example of the film principle called Chekov's Gun. More or less, the principle states that, narratively speaking for example, if you are shown a gun earlier in the movie/play, that gun must be used later in the film. Otherwise what was the point of it being there in the first place? I won't say what item this film uses in its version of this principle, but I thought it did a great job with bringing it back around.

S: Neat! Well I thought The Drop was very elegant and simple, overall. This is not a shoot-em-up movie. There's not a lot of violence. So it kind of had an elegant finish to it, which I liked.

So final thoughts on The Drop?

A: Well, we did have to do a CinemaScore thing for the first time ever which was funny considering all the movies we see. And this was one I said I wouldn't mind owning. I thought Hardy did a great job. This movie is kind of in the same vein as Lehane's other work, like Gone Baby Gone. This is the same kind of movie where I could watch it again and again if only to watch Hardy work, because he's one of the best working actors right now. So I really liked The Drop. You?

S: I enjoyed it. I didn't love it, but I enjoyed it for what it was. I felt like it was a very well-made movie. It looks great, it has a great script, good dialogue, it was tight for being a slow burn, so I appreciated that. And the acting was generally well done. I'll give it a 4 out of 5.

A: I think that's an accurate grade, so I'll give it a 4 out of 5 as well.

FINAL VERDICT: A good film to see for a Saturday matinee!

(Individual Scores - S: 4/5  A: 4/5)

Photo Courtesy: thelowdownunder.com, Fox Searchlight

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