The Drop Bottoms Out Early, Never Recovers
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2014 11 Sep
DVD Release Date: January 20, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: September 12, 2014
Rating: R for some strong violence and pervasive language
Run Time: 106 min.
Director: Michael R. Roskam
Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz
The Drop could more accurately be referred to as The Letdown—and a big one at that.
Starring the usually great Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini, and based on a story and script by Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island, Mystic River), The Drop is an example of lots of talent being used to very little effect. Although the story perks up a bit for its payoff, not even a few late fireworks can revive this flat, desultory story.
Hardy plays Bob Saginowski, a Brooklyn bartender who works for his cousin Marv (Gandolfini, in one of his final performances) at a bar where money is "dropped" for the Chechen gangsters who own the establishment. When a robbery leaves Bob and Marv short $5,000, they're given a brief window to pay back the stolen funds or face an unspoken but sure to be unpleasant consequence.
The implied threats—made increasingly specific later in the film—unnerve Marv, but Bob's reaction is more difficult to read. With his rarely changing expression, Bob comes across as a bar-tending man of few words whose softer side emerges only when he discovers an injured dog in a trash can. The trash can belongs to Nadia (Noomi Rapace, Prometheus) and the abused dog to the menacing Eric (Matthew Schoenaerts), a ticking time bomb whose presence gives the film its only edge.
The Drop is designed to build slowly to a climactic confrontation, but the storytelling is so lackluster that it never gains any sense of momentum or direction. The film also lacks visual interest, with an abundance of dimly lit scenes that would be more forgivable were there a single memorable image among them.
To its credit, Lehane's story doesn't overlook the working-class Catholicism of its setting, but like many other elements of The Drop, it's not well integrated into the plot. When people start disappearing, Detective Torres (John Ortiz) cozies up to Bob, whom he's seen at church, and starts asking questions, such as why Bob never takes communion. Like Torres, viewers might have their own questions about Bob's faith, even one as fundamental as why he attends church at all. Despite a few scenes showing Bob during Mass, Lehane and director Michael Roskam never provide any sense of Bob's beliefs, although past transgressions that come to light as the story progresses shed some light on Bob's possible church-attending motivations.
The film's depiction of Christian faith is just one of many ways The Drop lacks color and characterization. While none of the performers are bad, none stand out, while other bit parts have no apparent relevance to the larger narrative. Schoenaerts, so memorable in Rust and Bone (2012) and in Roskam's Bullhead, has the greatest potential to surprise, but his volatility is mostly discussed rather than shown here. Rapace's role is thankless and bland. Better is Hardy, although Bob is much less interesting than the actor’s other brooding characters in films like Warrior (2011) and Lawless (2012).
The Drop tries to instill an impending sense of doom as the story lumbers to its conclusion, but instead only manages a small burst of energy before fizzling out. Viewers would be better off dropping their money on other films and leaving this one to dangle on its own.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; multiple uses of the f-word; several other uses of foul language
- Drinking/Smoking: Bar scenes include drinking, smoking, drug exchanges; some additional scenes of smoking and drinking; a man is said to have left the bar to get a “bag of weed”
- Sex/Nudity: None.
- Violence/Crime: A wounded puppy is found in a trash can; a man’s foot is seen nailed to the floor of a van; a severed arm is wrapped in wax paper; guns are shown, pointed and fired, sometimes at point-blank range; a man is run over in a car; a threat to starve and beat a dog
- Religion/Morals/Marriage: A few scenes of a Catholic church service; comments about churches being “turned into condos with stained-glass windows”; Bob believes there are some sins you commit that you can’t come back from
Publication date: September 12, 2014