Review: THE DROP (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Review: THE DROP (2014)

2.5 stars
Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini deliver great performances in Michaël R. Roskam's gritty, but overly sluggish crime drama.

Best known for directing Oscar-nominated crime drama BULLHEAD (2011), Belgian-born filmmaker Michaël R. Roskam finally made his first Hollywood debut in THE DROP -- a potentially gripping crime drama featuring a familiar cast (Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini and Noomi Rapace) and an adapted screenplay written by popular crime novelist Dennis Lehane (whose novels such as MYSTIC RIVER, GONE BABY GONE and SHUTTER ISLAND went on becoming critically-acclaimed movies). Added with an attention-grabbing headline where THE DROP is heavily promoted as the late James Gandolfini's final movie (who passed away on June due to heart attack), it's hard to give this a miss especially given all the combined talents involved here. However, THE DROP turns out not as great as I hoped for. Instead, it's more of an uneven crime drama that tries too hard to delve into the late Sidney Lumet-like old-school style of filmmaking, but comes up short.


Based on a short story Animal Rescue written by Dennis Lehane, THE DROP revolves around Bob (Tom Hardy), a bartender who works for his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) at a bar simply called as Cousin Marv's. Apart from being a usual drinking establishment, Cousin Marv's is also operated as "drop bar" where dirty money is "dropped" and certain people will picked up later at specific time. Then one night, a pair of shotgun-wielding masked robbers raided the bar and ran away with US$5,000. Even though the amount of money is little compared to the usual drop-bar night, the Chechen mob who actually owned the bar, isn't particularly pleased at all. Meanwhile, Bob rescues an injured puppy dog in a garbage can belong to a woman named Nadia (Noomi Rapace). Both of them eventually become friends, and Bob soon discovers that the puppy dog is actually dumped by Nadia's psychotic ex-boyfriend Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Michaël R. Roskam's direction is fairly decent, particularly the way he sets the brooding and noirish atmosphere with the help of cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis, whom they work together before in BULLHEAD. Dennis Lehane's own adapted screenplay has its few moments, notably on the intriguing twists of his characters' hidden agenda. And beneath all the sombre tone, Roskam and Lehane manage to inject a welcome dosage of wisecracking humour delivered gracefully by the cast.

Speaking of the cast, the movie is blessed with a terrific acting ensemble. Tom Hardy steals most of the show with his perfectly understated performance as the soft-spoken Bob. In fact, the way he mumbles a lot throughout the movie reminds me of watching Hardy channeling young Marlon Brando during his prime. Along with his top-notch performance in LOCKE few months ago, this is no doubt a banner year for Tom Hardy. Equally captivating is the late James Gandolfini, who gives a fine performance in his supporting role as Marv. The rest of the cast, including Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts and even minor roles like John Ortiz playing a police detective and Michael Aronov as the ruthless son of the Chechen mob boss, are given a fair share of limelight.

The brief, but shockingly intense finale in the bar that reveals one of the main character's violent nature.

While it's understandable that Roskam tries to evoke the '70s filmmaking style of a classic slow-burn crime drama which demands a significant amount of patience from the viewers, the movie often struggles to find a satisfying balance between a gritty crime story and a character-driven drama. The "drop-bar" premise is depicted more like an afterthought, rather than a central idea that Roskam and Lehane could have explored further. Even as a drama that placed a lot of emphasis on the subplot involving Bob, Nadia and the puppy dog, the movie feels too mellow and sadly redundant.


Although the movie fails to deliver much of the dramatic impact, THE DROP remains best seen for its stellar cast and of course, James Gandolfini's last hurrah who will be remembered as one of the best character actors of today's generation.

* This review is written courtesy from 20th Century Fox Malaysia press screening *

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