Just about the first thing that happens in The Drop is that Tom Hardy rescues a puppy. “They’re dangerous…” he drawls upon learning that the pup is a Pitbull but this one clearly isn’t; it’s young and cute and, most importantly, it’s a pretty blatant plot device to side us instantly with Hardy’s Brooklyn based bartender. That’s how The Drop rolls. It’s not the sort blink-and-you’ll-miss-it thriller or mystery that shrouds it’s plot details in so many layers of disguise and subtlety that you’ll need repeat viewings to fully comprehend who’s doing what. It’s a movie that says pretty obliquely which characters you’re going to like and which ones you’re going to hate and it is all the better for it.
Set against the background of a Brooklyn underworld past its prime, The Drop places emphasis not on the mobsters running the city but on the guys who had their chance and ‘flinched’. Bob Saginowski (Hardy) tends a bar run by his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) but owned by the Chechan mob who run the area these days. That mob will frequently use Marv’s as a ‘drop bar’ a laundering spot for the days takings where the cash is handed to the barstaff who promptly drop it in the safe along with the legal takings of the evening. After the bar is hit by a couple of masked thieves, though, Bob and Marv find themselves held responsible by the Chechans for making up the lost funds.
Written by novelist Dennis Lehane, The Drop is an interesting aside from the nature of his previous adaptations. Gone, Baby, Gone and Shutter Island were both stories that focused on a central mystery, films that were driven to the finish line by the constant search for answers. The Drop is content to give you a pretty unabashed look at what events are unfolding and who is responsible. The appeal is in discovering not who is at fault but simply what happens next which shows a confidence in both the plotting and the characters which is for the most part deserved, if perhaps a little lacking in depth.
The biggest problem with most mob stories is that they become too involved in the status of…well, the mob. The way it works, the way they talk, the constant paranoia and their place in the gangland hierarchy is all so well established and has been so effectively presented previously that it’s far too easy to appear rote these days. The Drop sidesteps this problem by not really being a mob movie, but being a movie about people that happens to have the mob in it. Marv and Bob had a chance years ago but they blew it and that’s why these days they manage a bar. The lament of these two is a perspective not often seen in this age of underdog, do it yourself, ‘can’t keep me down’ narrative arcs that seems to make up every story we see these days. It’s compelling viewing to see a man who knows that he’s missed his opportunity to make it big and any renewed attempt would be nothing more than suicide. Performances from both Hardy and Gandolfini really bolster this theme with the latter clearly still resentful and seething, a new take on an old archetype fitting for the mob-giant’s final role and Hardy playing his lonely barkeep as quietly and internalised as any recent roles. Since Warrior, Hardy has solidified himself as one of Hollywood’s most interesting introverted actors and The Drop only serves to permeate this style.
Although it’s not especially thoughtful or subtly, these lead performances and a suitable broken down Brooklyn setting go a long way to stand The Drop apart from most other contemporary thrillers in this wheelhouse.
The Drop is one of those movies that comes along every now and then and shows that confidence and a strong cast can show a movie doesn’t need to be smarter than it’s audience to be engaging and exciting.
The Drop is out now in cinemas everywhere.