Review: The Drop (TIFF 2014)
PLOT: Bob Saginowsk (Tom Hardy) works at his cousin Marv's (James Gandolfini) bar, which doubles as a drop for mob money. When the two are robbed for a relatively small amount, they realize how vulnerable they are to robberies, which could have deadly consequences for them if they get ripped off for enough tainted money. When they're chosen to be the drop for Super Bowl Sunday, the two men find themselves in way over their heads.
REVIEW: THE DROP isn't exactly the type of mob-thriller you'd expect given the title. More of a character study, THE DROP is actually quite similar to director Michael R. Roskam's last film, BULLHEAD, in that it's the story of a hulking but vulnerable guy trying to live the best way he can in the sordid mob world he's found himself a member of.
The original title, ANIMAL RESCUE is actually more apt, with much of the story revolving around Bob's rescue of an abused puppy, which requires his love and care, and awakens a protectiveness in him that he never knew he had. Hardy's performance is very evocative of Marlon Brando's famous Terry Malloy in ON THE WATERFRONT. He looks like a thug, but has a heart of gold, although as Hardy plays him there's a hidden side that makes him dangerously unpredictable if you cross him.
His relationship with the puppy brings Noomi Rapace's scarred Nadia into his life, with her being another abused creature he feels protective towards. Yet, this new vulnerability also makes him easy prey for Matthias Schoenaerts as a local thug, who was the puppy's former owner, who uses Hardy's love for the pup to scam him for money. Meanwhile, he also has to contend with his self-destructive former wiseguy cousin, who in his middle age is now realizing his lot in life will never be improved and that realization leads to a dangerous new reckless streak. This was Gandolfini's final performance, and it's a strong one, with him basically playing a loser version of Tony Soprano, minus any mob clout or connections.
While everyone is very good (with Schoenaerts a particular stand-out) this is Hardy's show all the way with him virtually never off-screen. At first, it feels like his character is almost a simpleton but you quickly realize he's far from a mug, and Hardy's brilliant and suggesting layers to his character. While essentially a slow boil of a film, in the last twenty minutes director Roskam ratchets up the tension considerably, and Hardy's big moment in the climax where he delivers a little monologue about the kind of guy he really is brings the film to another level. Up then then it was OK, if a little stale. This scene alone makes it worth watching, and is one of the strongest pieces of acting Hardy's done outside of BRONSON and WARRIOR. As his kinda-sorta love interest, Rapace is fine, although the role feels extraneous. Truthfully, the real love story here is between him and the dog, with audience members cooing any time the cute pup showed up on screen. Gandolfini fares better, with him having fully completed the part before his tragic passing, so this ends up being a fully-realized portrayal and a fitting finale to a great career.
While THE DROP isn't one of the real TIFF standouts, it's still a really solid film, and a strong-piece of character-driven drama in the style of seventies auteurs like Sidney Lumet. Roskam has a real flair for crafting sensitive character pieces in a macho, hardcore gangster universe. While it's not up to BULLHEAD, it's a strong English-language debut, and worth checking-out.
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