Review: The Drop

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the dropSet in a gritty Brooklyn neighborhood during a cold, gray January, The Drop is a twisty crime drama that glooms along at a measured pace. The somber experience is elevated by the skillful performances of the lead actors, and it must be said, by the presence of a pit bull puppy who helps drive the action and counterbalance the moral decay around him.

Don't worry, director Michael R. Roskam (Bullhead) hasn't turned sentimental on us. The world he shows us here is a mean one. Justice comes in the form of bad things happening to bad people, but since nothing good really happens to anyone, these moments are hollow victories. 

In his last film performance, James Gandolfini plays Cousin Marv, a bar manager bullied into misery by Chechen crime bosses. Tom Hardy is Bob, a stoic bartender, and Noomi Rapace is Nadia, a down-on-her-luck waitress. Life is far from ideal for any of them (there are very few smiles in this movie), but all have strong survival instincts and are doing their best to get ahead.

That's where wildcard Eric Deeds comes in. Played by Matthias Schoenaerts with a truly frightening combination of unpredictability and charisma, Eric's presence and actions pull everyone into a defensive pattern of starts and stops. Though physically much different than he was in Bullhead, Schoenaerts is just as intense here -- he and Roskam make a good team when it comes to skillfully pummeling an audience with a dark story.

It's Hardy who is tasked with carrying most of the film, though (well, he and the dog), and his inscrutability and not-quite-normal mannerisms invite comparisons to Ryan Gosling's nameless character in Drive. When the bar becomes the center of some shady business and Marv begins acting more cynical and mysterious than usual (Gandolfini performs well here, of course), Bob slowly transforms from an "aw shucks" kind of guy into something altogether different. 

The Drop is skillfully made and explores a series of moral and ethical dilemmas without offering any suggestions as to what the right answers may be. Life is complicated, brutal, and short, but sometimes it makes for a good story.