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The Drop

tn_dropThere’s something I love about a movie where English Tom Hardy, Swedish Noomi Rapace and Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts play Brooklyn neighborhood folks. It’s this international cast, directed by Michaël R. Roskam (who previously did the “Best Foreign Language Film” Academy Award nominee BULLHEAD starring Schoenaerts) but there’s still a theme of characters having to correct each other’s ignorant statements about nationalities and languages: no, those gangsters aren’t from Russia, they’re from Chechnya. And you call them Chechens, not “Chechnyans.” And the language they speak in Brazil is called Portueguese, not Brazilian.

Rapace actually doesn’t put alot of effort into hiding her real accent, but Hardy, being Tom Hardy, throws himself into the task head long, especially in his occasional voiceover narration. He loves to mumble and slur, and to be funny-dumb, but also intelligent-inarticulate. As good as he is at playing eloquent snobs I suspect he has way more fun playing louts like this.

There is one American co-lead, and it’s a good one: the late James Gandolfini of New Jersey. His character Cousin Marv is a likable but bitter man, once the owner of Marv’s Bar, now just the guy forced to run it for Chechen gangsters who use it as a money drop. Hardy plays Bob, Marv’s younger cousin and bartender (who seems to do the actual work). All the sudden one week Bob and Marv step into two types of shit:

1) some guys in Halloween masks stick up the bar, and the Chechens consider Marv liable for the loss

2) Bob finds an abused pitbull puppy in a garbage can and decides to keep it. Not only must he face the perils of first time pet ownership (with the help of Rapace, owner of the garbage can) but he eventually finds himself in conflict with the previous owner. And before you ask he’s not exactly Gino Fellino, so he can’t just kick the guy in the balls from behind.

mp_dropWritten by Dennis Lehane from his short story “Animal Rescue,” this is a very leisurely and understated sort of crime tale. It focuses more on Bob’s time with the dog and the girl than with the gangsters and the detective (John Ortiz, aka Braga from FURIOUS 6) who’s circling him. It’s not at all jokey but it has an extra-dry sense of humor. Hardy seals it with his offbeat timing; you can see him thinking. I love when the detective is harassing him and he just stands there looking dumb, giving his response only to himself after the guy walks away. He’s no idiot, though. He knows there are things you don’t say, things you let go.

Marv is a sad character. He had a taste of being the neighborhood bigshot, but that’s never happening again. He has his gangster problem but also run-of-the-mill money shit. He lives with his disabled sister Dot (Ann Dowd) and still gets nagged like he would if she were his actual unfulfilled wife. She blames him for her not achieving her dreams either. They talk about going on vacation together.

Rapace’s character Nadia is a little more standard issue. She’s less physically scarred than she was in DEAD MAN DOWN, but it’s another nice lady trying to get past a horrible life. As usual the character is made more interesting by her playing it.

Schoenaerts plays Eric Deeds, one of the villains, and he’s got his got a real creepy style of menace. I only knew him from RUST AND BONE, where he’s kind of a mono-syllabic bruiser. Here he’s less physical, more psychological. His mental state is described as “squashed.” He usually threatens without coming out and saying it. Pretending to just be a random guy talking to Bob in the park, but saying a few odd things. Then showing up at his door and asking to come in. Hardy is noticeably smaller than him, and not shown to be a fighter at all, but he doesn’t show any fear. Doesn’t even puff his chest out. You’re not sure if that means he’s tough enough to take him, or he’s just very calm. But I mean, he lets this stranger into his kitchen of his own free will. Eric tries to scare him by pretending to be friendly, and Bob pushes back by playing along.

Compared to most stories about taking on a rescue dog, this turns into a pretty big adventure. But compared to most stories about stealing from the mafia it stays pretty small and intimate. I like that about it. It’s humble.

I like the movie overall, but mostly I like it for Hardy. I bet he’ll have a great career and do mostly strong material for a long time, but if he ends up a bloated old man playing gangsters in shitty b-movies I bet he’ll make that enjoyable too. He’s one of those special type of actors who could be in almost anything and it’s fun to just watch him going at it. Acting. Getting his mind around the character, his mouth around the way he talks. He’s detailed. You watch his eyes, his posture. Maybe he’s better in a movie like this without too much going on. It gives him more space to move.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 1:27 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

9 Responses to “The Drop”

  1. So this is not a movie about Dubstep? HEYOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  2. I really enjoyed this movie for many of the reasons stated above, but Tom Hardy’s accent was kind of in-and-out, most notably in a pivotal barroom monologue where his take on Brooklyn uncomfortably fights morphing into Foghorn Leghorn. For me, that shit almost broke an otherwise great movie. Of course, what happens next was pretty excellent.

  3. Sometimes I feel like I don’t understand acting or something because when I hear people rhapsodize about Tom Hardy in stuff like this I can’t even get my head around what people liked about it. I hated every second of his mumbling and crappy accent and thought Gandolfini and Schoenaerts were a lot more fascinating to watch. Maybe it’s just that I disliked Hardy’s character – I’m long past finding ‘silent & violent’ an interesting type. Gandolfini’s character would’ve been a way more interesting guy to do a character study on, for me.

  4. Haven’t seen this yet, but I like the sound of it. I have seen BULLHEAD with Schoenarts, and it’s quite good. If you’ve ever felt emasculated in a metaphoric way, by people in your life who put you down, or by circumstances you feel you can’t rise above, then BULLHEAD makes you feel a whole better about it, since the protagonist literally has his balls smashed in as a young boy, then grows up into this overcompensating, aggressive, animal growth hormone injecting gangster. It’s rather touching. I recommend.

  5. Schoenarts is one of those old school type actors that just exudes masculinity. He’s been awesome in everything I’ve seen him in.

  6. I think Tom Hardy did a great, great job in this one. He’s so subtle in his acting; his eyes and expression are doing all the work. For me he’s spell-bounding and i can look at him for hours and hours… Don’t forget this character asked for such an access and Hardy delivered!

  7. A fine review, Vern. Thanks. I liked “The Drop” quite a bit, and didn’t really know what to expect going in.

    Losing Gandolfini sucks. He’s exceedingly watchable and has that screen charisma that so few actors really have, even when he’s doing nothing.

  8. I liked this movie quite a bit, and I thought maybe it was set in Brooklyn, too (or one of the five buroughs), but most of Lehane’s stuff is set in Boston. In fact, the only stuff of his I know that aren’t completely set in Boston are ‘The Given Day’ and ‘Live By Night’ (and the upcoming sequel, probably, but I haven’t read that one yet), and those are both partially set in Boston. What I’m getting at is I suspect it’s set in Boston (actually, I just looked it up, and the movie is set in Brooklyn, though the short story was set in Beantown; I guess that explains the accents). I’ve read a lot of Lehane’s stuff, and I think it’s mostly pretty excellent. Vern, you should check out ‘Prayers For Rain’. I’m not sure why I recommend it, except that I just really liked it a lot, and I’d be curious to see what you think of it. I realize there are a million good books in the world, and you’ve probably already got a few on your list, but I figured I’d throw that out there. It’s the fifth book in a series, but I don’t think that’s a problem. It’s the sequel to ‘Gone, Baby, Gone’, and I’m sure you’ve seen that movie (the movie differs from the book in a few ways, but is close enough). Anyway, that’s all I got.

  9. **HEAVY SPOILER DROPPINGS SPRINKLED THROUGHOUT**

    This was pretty good, bordering on excellent in my opinion. “A small movie”, is the term my dear old Gran used to use for a movie where not much happened and there were no epic battles or special effects or wowzer thrills but you enjoyed the characters and their conversations and their small intimate world and the damn fine acting from interesting actors and at the end you felt satisfied like you do after eating your favorite food (for me it’s Italian sausage pizza with anchovies and chilli from The Original Gourmet Pizza Kitchen), and it puts a little smile on your dial.

    I caught shades of ON THE WATERFRONT’s Terry Malloy in Hardy’s Bob character. An uneducated, semi-articulate underdog type to Gandolfini’s Marv, a (seemingly more) corrupt and domineering older cousin, similar to Rod Steiger’s Charley. I like the scene in the third act at Marv’s bar when Bob see’s the thug Deed’s (Schoenaert) walk in with the girl, and you can see his eyes processing the details, and just by the way Hardy closes his eyes you know that he knows he’s being fucked over by his cousin.

    The surprise monologue from Bob kinda threw me, and his cold-bloodedness was a bit jarring, since the film’s focus was mostly on Hardy’s Rocky Balboa-esque underdog charm up to that point. Was Lehane’s original short story title Animal Rescue mean’t as a metaphor for Bob? The very last scene at the house with his love interest was sort of ambiguous about whether there was any future for them, what with her witnessing him shoot a guy in front of her just like that.

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