Brad Pitt, Christmas, Cinema, Film, James Gandolfini, Killing Them Softly, Lawless, Matthias Schoenaerts, Movie Review, Noomi Rapace, Shutter Island, Suicide Squad, The Drop, The Sopranos, Tom Hardy, Tony Soprano, Welcome To The Rileys
“The Drop” has gone surprisingly under the radar since its release last month, given that the book it is based on was written by the author of “Shutter Island”, and it has a stellar cast, including Tom Hardy and the late great James Gandolfini, in his final film. I am personally surprised that this film wasn’t forced on the public a lot more, because there are a lot of selling points, and I think it’s a shame that it wasn’t advertised a bit more frequently. This is one of my favourite movies of the year, because it’s subtle, well acted, and doesn’t take any real effort to watch and enjoy.
This movie revolves around Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy), and the designated drop bar at which he works, through which Cyprian drug dealers attempt to keep their money in safe hands. Along with the difficulties this presents, such as a strain in his relationship with his uncle Marv (James Gandolfini), Bob must also deal with a new found responsibility, as he rescues an injured dog (Rocco) and hesitantly takes it into his home. Rocco plays a central role in the plot, because Bob finds him injured in a dustbin, at the house of Nadia (Noomi Rapace), who from that point onwards causes a lot of problems and moves the story along. Her presence causes conflict between Bob and a shady character, Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), who (SPOILER ALERT) is actually Nadia’s ex-boyfriend and claims to be responsible for hurting Rocco, as well as murdering a former associate of Bob and Marv. There is a lot more to this film than a simple dispute between two men, about a woman and a dog, but to reveal much more than that would simply ruin the movie and take away from the impact of some of the more tense moments.
The story pays off nicely and I enjoyed it a lot, mainly due to Bob’s progression as a character throughout the film. He’s silent, broody, and constantly alive, so you never feel as though you’re watching a film, because it seems as though this character is really thinking. Hardy is a great actor, because he gives himself to each role so brilliantly, he becomes the character he’s playing each time he performs in a movie, and this is no different. The cogs are clearly turning in Bob’s head as he hears Eric’s threats, and it never seems that the words are falling on deaf ears. Bob takes the words in, he feels them and he (subtly) reacts to them, which is only clear because of how good Hardy is in this film.
As a character Bob is the ideal protagonist. He’s the kind of person that you can route for and never feel bad for doing so, even though he’s willing to do things that are just plain wrong. (SPOILER ALERT) There is a scene in this film in which Bob is disposing of a human arm, left at the bar as a threat from the Chechens to Marv and Bob, and he does this as though it was a Christmas present he was giving to the most important person in his life. He’s calm and focused, carefully wrapping the arm in order to conceal it for disposal, and he has no issue with touching it or looking at it, he just deals with the problem as if it were an everyday task. There’s something incredibly endearing about how this character can be so sensitive and caring when he’s around Nadia, making sure that she feels comfortable despite his clear strength and lack of social skills, and yet at the same time be completely void of any emotion whatsoever when it comes to activity which would make even the most hardened criminal squeal. Nothing fazes Bob, nothing could unsettle or worry him (apart from maybe Rocco getting hurt), he’s the one in control, and there’s something genuinely satisfying in watching a character like that go through his daily routine in a well written and well acted movie.
Despite the fact that I enjoyed the story and Hardy’s performance, I do feel that the character’s motives and the past events which drove the plot were probably explained a lot better in the book, because things are constantly mentioned in passing which you never really get an understanding of. We know two things right from the start, first, that Richie Whelan died and was an associate of Bob and Marv, and second that Marv lost control of his bar to the Chechens, who now own the bar and by extension Marv himself. Both of these things could’ve been interesting to explore a lot more, and they probably would’ve made for a more entertaining movie than this one, but this film wants to be subtle and focus on dialogue rather than action.
Whelan’s death was very important to the events of the film, and there is a moment relating to this which is by far the best scene, but each time he was mentioned it took me a few seconds to actually realise who was being talked about. Furthermore, Marv’s dislike for the Chechens is always evident through Gandolfini’s perfectly nuanced performance, and the way Marv talks about them to Bob makes it clear that he wishes they were out of the picture, but because of their importance to the movie’s title and towards our understanding of Marv as a character, I would’ve liked them to have much more screen time.
The performances are excellent, and as I’ve mentioned, Hardy is brilliant, playing a role he is well accustomed to. Hardy has proven that he is always reliable as a quiet but powerful loner, through brilliant movies like “Lawless”, and this movie is no different. As a character, Bob is constantly on the back-foot and he’s forced into a corner on more than one occasion, but he exudes control no matter what situation he’s put in. He never loses his cool or appears fearful, even though the police, mobsters and a suspected killer are all watching his movements with great interest.
Gandolfini is also perfectly cast, as he plays a former gangster who wants to relive his glory days, and it’s almost as though he is playing a version of Tony Soprano after his prime, or continuing his role from “Killing Them Softly”. Gandolfini seems to really understand the role he’s playing, and I believe that he feels the words he’s saying. When Marv tells Bob that he used to be someone, and that he was feared, it almost seems as though Gandolfini is just voicing his feelings. He was a fantastic actor, and he commanded respect in each of his roles, but he was also able to convey a lot of sadness in some of his films, such as “Welcome To The Rileys”, and that’s what makes him so good in this movie. Marv regrets his past and he loathes being told what to do, and because Gandolfini portrays these feelings with such authority and raw emotion, you can genuinely connect with the character, and you understand his motivations without really having a great grasp on what happened in the years prior to the events of the film.
It wouldn’t be fair to ignore Noomi Rapace or Matthias Schoenaerts when praising the performances in “The Drop”, even though they are probably a level below Hardy and Gandolfini for the majority of the film. As a love interest for Bob, Nadia is very well suited, she’s just come out of a bad relationship, and there’s no one better to make you feel safe than someone as calm and quiet as Bob. However, their relationship is far from easy, because when Eric comes on the scene they both have to watch their backs at every turn, and they’re constantly aware of his presence even when he’s not around.
If Nadia had been played by a less capable actress, I think that we could’ve been in for a frustrating movie, because as a character she’s quite unhinged and fearful of people coming into her life and causing damage, so we could’ve seen a lot of crying and a lot of complacency. But Rapace conveys Nadia’s emotions carefully and thoughtfully, never overacting or trying to steal a scene by getting too scared or looking to helpless. She understands that women in that kind of situation can be hurt and fearful, whilst also being strong, because someone like Nadia knows what might happen to her, she knows when she isn’t in control, which is a valuable asset. Another actress, being watched by another director, might’ve kicked and screamed and taken over a scene or two, and for me that would’ve completely ruined the film, because at the end of the day Nadia has done that before and she’s taken her blows for it, she knows how to work Eric, or she would’ve been far worse off by now.
Rapace lets the audience know that Nadia is playing her own game, and watching her do that was very enjoyable from my perspective. She might’ve let Eric win the smaller battles taking place within the film, but she did so because she knew the significance of being around to see an end to the war, and she knew that running or fighting back wouldn’t work out against an evil, aggressive foe.
Eric is slightly less interesting than the rest of the characters in this film, and he is definitely the least intelligent of the group. He’s one-dimensional, driven by the goals of getting the girl, getting money, and intimidating anyone in his way, so he’s your typical villain in a lot of movies. However, that doesn’t make him a badly written character, in fact I’d say the truth of the matter is quite the opposite. Some people are just like that, they don’t have many positive attributes to give to the world, they don’t have anything useful to say, but like a bully in the schoolyard, they know how to get the things they want using what they’ve got.
Eric uses his limited resources to the best of his abilities, and since he’s gotten this far by hurting the people who cross him, he sees no reason to stop now. The problem he faces, which he is blissfully unaware of, is that some people aren’t so predictable, and the audience comes to realise that as the film goes on. What Schoenaerts does well in this movie is portraying the false sense of say-so that an abusive man like Eric would believe he has, having gotten his way so often in his life up to that point. Eric talks a big game, and he’s started to believe it, which really heightens events towards the back end of the movie. Eric suffers from serious delusions of grandeur, telling Bob that people don’t see him coming, making empty threats and expecting the world to bend to his whims, and as an actor I don’t know a lot about, Schoenaerts impressed me a lot in how he handled the character and got the most he could out of the role.
Overall the movie was enjoyable, and I’d put it on in a heartbeat if it was on television. However, I did find the ending a bit strange. (SPOILER ALERT) The build up to the very end of the film was awesome, because we finally saw who Bob really was and we got a bit of satisfaction after seeing Eric torture him psychologically throughout the movie, but after that point the film just lasted too long. I wasn’t interested in anything that happened after that moment because there was nothing left to see, the film was smart enough that it didn’t need any closure following the penultimate scene; the audience deserved to come to their own conclusions about how the characters would progress in their lives, and it was an extremely strange choice on the part of the filmmakers to force an ending on their viewers, who they had respected before that point.
Nevertheless, “The Drop” is an excellent film, it kept my attention throughout and I really couldn’t pick out a lot of issues. It was a movie driven by great performances and interesting characters, and it really spoke to my tastes. However, I don’t think that it’s for everyone, because in all honesty not a lot actually happened. I like films that are able to entertain through clever dialogue and immersive performances, so for me this movie was enjoyable and a lot of fun, but for others I think this would simply be remembered as ‘the one with the dog’. Still, if you’re a purist about films and you like to appraise a film on its quality (based on performances, plot, script, etc.), this one’s for you, because you won’t find any massive flaws or logical breaks in “The Drop”. It’s a solid, well-made movie, and for that reason I rate it very highly.