Dennis Lehane adapts his own short story, "Animal Rescue", into screenplay form for a feature that allows for a number of the main actors to deliver performances to rank up there with their very best. Although it's sad to remember that this was the last film completed by James Gandolfini, it's a bittersweet pleasure to see him go out on such a high, delivering the kind of stellar supporting turn he could so effortlessly pull out from his back pocket.
He's not the focus of the film, however. The person who is front and centre is Tom Hardy, playing Bob Saginowski. Bob works in a bar that belongs to his cousin, Marv AKA . . . Cousin Marv (Gandolfini). Well, I should say that it used to belong to Marv. He lost it some time ago, and now makes money for the owners while his name remains up on display. A number of things happen in a short space of time that threaten the relatively content situation Bob and Marv have made for themselves. Bob finds a dog dumped in a bin, and meets a woman (Nadia, played by Noomi Rapace) at the same time. The bar is robbed, with the stolen money being something tbat the criminal bar owners cannot let go without someone being responsible for it. And Bob starts to be harassed by Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), who claims to be the owner of the ditched dog. Meanwhile, a Detective Torres (John Ortiz) is investigating the robbery, which makes everyone slightly edgy and looking as if they have even more to hide.
Directed by Michaël R. Roskam, as trite as this might sound, The Drop is a film that excels simply because it has a quality cast working with a solid script. Lehane doesn't do anything exceptional here (there's nothin on a par with some of the dialogue in Mystic River, for example), but he has taken the time to craft a quintet of characters who feel fully-formed, and who make you care about the cinematic journey in varying ways. Roskam puts his faith in these characters, and rightly so, which allows him to concentrate on simple and unfussy shot choices throughout. The emphasis is always on the geography and proximity of various characters, and every scene works within that remit.
Although I started this review by mentioning, and praising, Gandolfini, that's slightly unfair to his co-stars. Hardy gives a performance that, even for him, counts as one of his absolute best. And his scenes with Rapace work brilliantly, largely thanks to the fact that she is also on top form. She's arguably playing the most innocent character of the main group, but even she has a darkness in her past that is revealed in due course. Schoenaerts is an excellent pain in the ass, Ortiz does well as the familiar kind of cop who just knows that there's more going on than he can see, even if he suspects he also may never see it. Even the much smaller roles are cast perfectly, with fine little turns from people who at least completely look the part.
Is there anything that doesn't work? Very little. Perhaps Roskam could have done a bit more to make this feel a bit more cinematic (it's not hard to envision this being adapted into a stage play) and things come together in the finale in a way that isn't at all surprising. There's a chance that it's not meant to be, considering how large and unsubtle the signposting is, but things play out as if viewers are supposed to need to take a moment to process the information they have been fed, which most will have already figured out for themselves by the end of the first act.
Overall, this is a great piece of work. I especially recommend it to anyone who likes ANY of the main stars, but also just to anyone who likes a flawless acting ensemble.
You can buy the movie here.
Americans can buy it here.