Title: The Drop
Is This Set In Boston Like Every Other Dennis Lehane Story? No, Brooklyn. Maybe Gandolfini couldn't do a Southie accent.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Four Members Only jackets out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Good-natured bartender finds a dog, a girl, and a heap of trouble, sort of in that order.
Tagline: None. Expect them to get a lot of mileage out of "James Gandolfini's final film appearance."
Better Tagline: "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive ... look, a puppy!"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Bob Saginowksi (Tom Hardy) has a pretty easy-going life: tending bar at Cousin Marv's for his ... cousin Marv (Gandolfini), going to church (but never taking communion; curious!), and rescuing abused dogs from the trash cans of troubled young women like Nadia (Noomi Rapace). Okay, so he only rescues the one dog. Still, that's enough to make up for the fact the bar just got held up and the current Chechen gang owners want their money, or the fact a sinister dude rumored to have killed a local guy is now showing an unhealthy interest in Bob, right?
"Critical" Analysis: Last week's screening of The Drop was attended by a larger than average number of idiots, judging by the inappropriate laughter and general tenor of post-film conversation. One particular clown shoe sitting about two seats to my left commented, after the (to that point) uncharacteristically violent climax, "That's the most action we're going to see all movie, I guess."
It's true: The Drop is not an action movie. I'm not sure why anyone -- even those not particularly familiar with Lehane's oeuvre -- would have a tremendous problem with that (but it has a *gun* in the *poster*!),some people just want wall to wall mayhem without nuance or acting or whatever. Pity Expendables 3 isn't still in theaters.
Having said that, if you're going to make your film 90 percent slow burn, you better choose your cast wisely. Enter the Gandolfini. Marv is an anti-Tony Soprano whose mob career never made it out of the minor leagues. It's a reality Marv is none too pleased with, and so, reduced to reacting to slights both perceived and imagined, he takes the one course of action he believes is available to him.
Also on board are Rapace (best known for the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy) playing an understandably timorous waitress, and Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts as the aforementioned Creepy Guy. That they share a past isn't hard to suss, but wondering how everything will play out certainly contributes to the tension.
And then there's Hardy. For whatever reason, he still doesn't seem to get a lot of respect in spite of powerful performances in Bronson, Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Warrior, and Locke (the last of which about 14 people saw, all of them film critics). It's mystifying, because as you watch The Drop, you realize an actor of lesser caliber couldn't sell Bob's awkward yet somehow menacing presence. Hardy succeeds in making us fearful, both *for* Bob and for the person who eventually steps over his line.
First-time director Michaël R. Roskam wisely backs off as the cast does their thing, occasionally indulging in a bit of camera gimmickry, but generally sticking with what works: letting the story (such as it is) unfold at its own pace. Supplemented by Hardy in a succession of flannel shirts and plenty of cute doggie shots, Lehane's script -- like the short story ("Animal Rescue") it's based on -- fairly oozes with urban decay and the quiet desperation that is the
English new American way.
But the larger theme at work here can be found in Marv's increasing frustration at a destiny denied. In anyone else's hands, Marv would be just another loser clinging to delusions of significance, but Gandolfini captures something of that early 21st century zeitgeist that tells us -- like it or not -- the world is moving on and doesn't really care if we can't keep up.
The Drop is in theaters today. Who's a good dog? You are.
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