This review of 2014’s The Drop was originally published September 27th, 2014 at

The Drop is what everyone wants from small scale crime drama; gripping in a no nonsense conventional storytelling type of way. Information is communicated through cause and effect, the characters act and react to one another, and the audience slowly learns what’s going on. The Drop never lets go.

“The Drop” refers to the bar at the center of this whole affair. Historically, a drop bar is a dedicated location where mobsters collect all their money at the end of one night. There are many drop bars in the organization meaning there is no guarantee that any particular location is the Drop for the night.

As human nature can attest, all that money in one place is tempting. The dramatic wheels start turning after a robbery of a drop bar. Since the night it is robbed is not a drop night, the take small by organized crime standards. But a few thousand ill-gotten dollars is enough to begin a slow unraveling our characters’ worlds and plans. After all, the men who own the bar want their money back and dirty money is not something insurance covers.

Any fan of James Gandolfini will want to see his last performance here as Cousin Marv; a supporting character who runs the drop bar that is robbed early on. Gandolfini, always reliable, carries Marv with just the right mix of aging blue collar resentment and criminal energy. We learn that Marv used to be a big deal mobster but that was a long time ago and times have changed. He doesn’t even own the bar in question anymore. He just runs it.

Tom Hardy is Bob Saginowski, a slower, unassuming bartender. His cousin Marv is his closest associate. While simple in a monetary and cultural sense, Bob is not one dimensional. Hardy’s greatest acting triumph is when Bob is thinking. Never before has it been so convincing that someone is working out something within their own mind than in Hardy’s many opportunities to let us know Bob is not exactly the sharpest knife in the set.

The biggest obstacle to completely buying Bob as a disheveled, bottom of the totem pole character is Hardy’s handsome movie star face. They try to give him a scraggly beard to give him a rundown appearance but his naturally handsome looks shine through. Hardy is well within that category where Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump resides. The place where, if the face is familiar enough, a conscious distance between the actor and the character is created. All credit to Hardy who overcomes this barrier like a pro.

The violence is a sort of naturalistic, unsettling punctuation mark. The real star here is the tone. The atmosphere. The dread. When the characters ring true and what they are capable of is laid out on the table, the suspense is greatest. That suspense is so finely crafted. Sculpted even. The film lets Bob and his relationship with Nadia, played by Noomi Rapace, breath. Their moments of genuine sweetness revolve around a dog they rescue together. The rescue dog along with a broken porcelain angel Nadia keeps mirrors both Nadia and Bob’s need to move on from their pasts and how they are drawn together. This adds to the dramatic compression in the tensest moments. When these characters have something to lose they are understood exactly.

The Drop is now playing at the AMC Mayfair Mall.


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