Adapted from Dennis Lehane’s short story “Animal Rescue,” a writer known for his Boston ties, this film plays out in New York – Brooklyn to be exact – a borough known for its blue collar ethics. The film skims the surface of illegal neighborhood business activity and the implications that it has amongst the residence of a tight-knit community. For bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy), this is just the way of life, the life he chose at an early age. He now lives in the house his deceased parents used to own, still sporting the old plastic covers protecting the vintage furniture his parents spent their hard-earned money to acquire. Saginowski also attends 8am mass every day but keeps to himself and never receives communion. The years have changed this simple man, but he hasn’t forgotten his past.
Since a Chechen organized crime family moved into the neighborhood, once prominent bookie Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) has struggled with this place in the old neighborhood. Still running the bar that bares his name, Marv and his cousin Bob now answer to Chovka (Michael Aronov) and run a drop bar for the crime families money laundering activities. Since the bars are rotated as to avoid anyone who might be looking to take down the Chechens, the bar owners never know when their bar will be selected to be the drop for the night. Just business as usual around the old haunt, but all their lives are about to change.
When Bob finds an abused puppy in the trash can of local waitress named Nadia (Noomi Rapace), a woman with a checkered past, Bob agrees to adopt the puppy with the help of Nadia, but the aggressive advances of a local thug with ties to both (Matthias Schoenaerts) begin to add a new dimension to Bob’s already secretive life. As the bar becomes a focal point of the Chechen’s Super Bowl money drop, pieces are set in motion to ensure that this drop might change Cousin Marv and Bob’s lives forever.
Directed by Belgium filmmaker Michaël R. Roskam, The Drop relies heavily on the script by Lehane and serviceable performances from its leads to help the young director deliver a valiant effort. Tom Hardy keeps delivering truly wonderful performances each time his hits the screen. Noomi Rapace is not overpowering as the damaged love interest and her chemistry with Hardy really works with this film. Matthias Schoenaerts is truly fantastic as the villainous thug with ambitions to inflict chaos into his victims lives. James Gandolfini, in his final role, has very underwhelming. Gandolfini seemed to rely more on past roles to channel his Cousin Marv and brings no new dimension to a role that could’ve used some variation.
As the film progresses, Roskam begins to experiment a little too much with his characters and adds a little too much optimism into a film whose core is dark and callous. The events leading to the conclusion of the film are played out with perfection and should have been left to play themselves out in the audience’s minds, but the young director follows the story a little too far and ends up losing his perfect ending. What we are left with is a movie that had all the making of being a fantastic film, but loses its nerve to be truly great.
2 1/2 out of 5