Dennis Lehane, the author of works such as “Gone Baby Gone,” “Shutter Island,” and “Mystic River” seems to have found his calling within the movie business as of late when it comes to getting his novels adapted. With directors such as Clint Eastwood, Ben Affleck, and even Martin Scorsese finding much to admire about his work, the writer has become a movie biz fixation the last few years with studios green-lighting film adaptations of his work in a consecutive, back-to-back release schedule. With this year’s “The Drop,” a film adapted from his own short story “Animal Rescue,” Lehane was actually elected to write “The Drop’s” script, which is also a follow up to Belgian director Michael R. Roskam’s 2011’s ferocious, testosterone-fueled drama “Bullhead.” The Drop is Roskam’s second feature, and American debut. It also happens to be James Gandolfini’s(“The Sopranos,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “True Romance”) final role, before the actor tragically died last year of a heart attack while vacationing in Rome.
The title of the film refers to the bar that Marv, Gandolfini’s character, owns in a dog-eat-dog Brooklyn neighborhood that also acts a front for the local crime syndicate.On one of the nights leading up to the Christmas holiday, two mindless thugs, way in over their heads, stage a robbery and loot the establishment leaving Marv and his younger cousin Bob (Tom Hardy) with an owed debt to a life-threatening group of criminals. Marv’s bar is usually a local hangout where old pals make toast to their glory days and commemorate absent friends, but oily-haired, crazy-eyed Chechen gangsters constantly stopping in have begun to cast their shadow over it, turning the pub into a suspicious place and consequentially drawing the attention of the local law enforcement. In the interest of time, Bob adopts an abused and abandoned pitbull puppy dog that he chooses to name “Rocco,” who may or may not have ties to the same underworld mobsters Marv and Bob are so fearful of.
“The Drop” is a solid movie, one that is more interested in character depth and embracing its quiet, slow burn build-up that’s so indicative of classic 70s cinema from directors like Sidney Lumet, or of films like Martin Scorsese’s “Mean Streets.” The film’s set-up and rhythm is painstakingly conventional, but padded around it are great performances, especially from Hardy whose quiet, restrained force, which he also demonstrated in this year’s “Locke,” puts you on edge. Gandolfini is good as always, and this is his swan song, although I’m sure fans of his are much more intent on giving that title to his contribution with his role as Tony Soprano instead “The Drop,” especially since Hardy actually manages to outshine him with his captivating character arc. I also have to give credit to where credit is due, and applauded the three overwhelmingly awesome and adorable pit-bull dogs that played Rocco. “That’s a good looking dog,” says Matthias Schoenaerts who plays the menacing, baddy Eric Deeds, and I think audiences were inclined to agree. No one wanted to see any harm come to that poor, innocent dog. Rocco wins you heart and the ongoing relationship between him and Bob is quite fascinating.
“The Drop” does have a sizable, shocking plot-twist, but its modus operandi is fixated on being a long-simmering character study, centered around the character of Bob, that creeps up silently and urges you to watch a second time with a alternate perspective, aiding what could have been a run-of-the-mill crime drama into a film worth checking out. I’m not entirely sure what its status will be years from now. Perhaps “The Drop” will fade into obscurity, and I highly doubt it will get any recognition come Oscar season. Nevertheless, it’s hard to picture anyone finding strong disappointment in it.
Rob Gabe is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RG770214@wcupa.edu.