The Drop (November 14, 2014)
The Drop is a crime drama set in Brooklyn, New York and was the late Soprano’s star James Gandolfini in his final film. It is soaked with the menacing, seedy, Eastern Seaboard neighbourhood atmosphere that is a speciality of Boston writer Dennis Lehane (Gone, Baby, Gone, Shutter Island, Mystic River), but it boasts a strong international cast and is directed by a Belgium Director.
Director Michaël R. Roskam’s only other feature, Bullhead, was nominated for an Academy Award, Best Foreign Film in 2011 and landed him on Variety’s ’10 Directors to Watch’ list. The story and setting seem familiar and the characters are ill-defined. But making the most of his strong cast and Lehane’s rich, unpredictable script, Roskam remains a director to watch.
Bob Saginowski (the great London born actor Tom Hardy, Locke, Bronson) is a bartender in Cousin Marv’s, a busy neighbourhood bar run by Marv (Gandolfini), but owned by the Chechen mafia. Bob seems to be the silent, obliging type, buying a round for a group of regulars commemorating the death of a friend. Marv takes issue with Bob’s generosity and with the dead man. Reminding Bob that the man has been dead for ten years, he says, ‘it’s time to move on.’
Despite the friendly name, the bar is in the control of the Brooklyn criminal underworld. Marv is informed that on Super Bowl Sunday it will be the designated drop for a big stash of gambling money.
When the bar is robbed, just before the Super Bowl, the Chechen mob expects Marv to come up with their money. Although Marv resents the implication that he was involved with the robbery, he is not the victim he seems and admonishes Bob for talking to Police Detective Torres (an underwritten part for the terrific John Ortiz).
Walking home from work one night, Bob hears a sound coming from a rubbish bin and finds a badly beaten puppy inside. He approaches Nadia (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), who lives in the closest house, and she reluctantly lets Bob in, caring for the dog as though she were a vet.
She corrects Bob when he refers to the dog as a Boxer, informing him it is a Pit Bull. When he protests that it is a dangerous breed, Nadia says: ‘It’s not his fault his owner’s a dick. Look at him. He’s nothing but sweet.’ With this metaphoric statement, it is worth mentioning that Lehane’s script is adapted from his short story, ‘Animal Rescue’.
Fearing that the dog will be put to sleep because of its breed, Bob adopts it. He names him Rocco after Saint Rocco, the Patron Saint of dogs, whose statue stands in the Church where he prays. Rocco is also the Saint of the falsely accused, a typically ironic touch from Lehane.
Since Rocco is his first pet and Bob works long hours, he agrees to pay Nadia, an unemployed waitress, to help him. While Bob and Nadia rescue the dog, they strike us as needing some rescuing themselves.
As their relationship develops, an unhinged stranger named Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), shows us with an ownership claim on the dog and on Nadia. And then, on Super Bowl Sunday, Marv calls in sick…
More than the plots, it is perhaps the unpredictable nature of Lehane’s flawed characters that make his novels obvious candidates for films. The leading characters evolve before your eyes from what you thought they would be into something else, but just what, you are never sure. In some cases, it can seem like (and might be) a cop out. It is like the Pit Bull that Bob thought was a Boxer. And it is the fearsome Pit Bull that turns out to be an adorable scene-stealer.
The Drop shares Bullhead’s dark, gritty criminal underworld, morally compromised characters, and the powerhouse Belgium actor Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone, Bullhead), here, playing the psychotic dog-beater with a link to Rocco, Nadia, Bob and Marv.
There is a similarity between Schoenaerts in Bullhead and Hardy in The Drop, (if not in Bronson); and Roskam seems fascinated by the idea of a vulnerable man locked in a monster’s body and corrupted by his environment. But unlike Bullhead, The Drop leaves its main character, Bob, with the possibility of hope, if not love.
by Joyce Glasser, Mature Times film reviewer