Editor’s note: Our “Double Exposure” reviews pit two or more critics against one another on the same film to hash out their differences in opinion. Agree with what we have to say or want to offer your own take? Leave it in the comments below.
Final Rating: 7 out of 10
Bottom Line: “The Drop” may end up being too meditative for some viewers, but with Hardy’s exceptionally watchable persona, Gandolfini’s final, complex performance, and an unspooling mess of lies to uncover, there’s enough going on to entertain despite the slow pacing.
Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10
Bottom Line: Although Tom Hardy puts in another great performance, “The Drop” is a vague, murkily edited, and cliched crime drama that offers viewers nothing they haven’t seen a thousand times before.
Old-time tough guy Marv (the late James Gandolfini) used to own his bar in Brooklyn, now he just runs it. Ten years ago Chechen gangsters came in and started using Cousin Marv’s as a “drop bar.” Now, while it still serves as a borough favorite, it also plays host to the city’s dirty money. But when Marv’s glum, reserved bartender Bob (Tom Hardy) finds a young puppy discarded in a trash bin, he unknowingly becomes involved in a small-time plot to knock-off the bar in a series of events that will reveal the neighborhood’s decade-old secrets.
Taylor Sinople: As Tom Hardy’s career goes on, he’s becoming an actor whose talent is being magnified by a cumulative effect. Each role makes the others better by comparison. In “The Drop,” Hardy strips away the precise, intelligent Welshman he played in 2013’s “Locke” to sculpt a soft-spoken New York City former-thug as Bob.
Similarly, we’re seeing James Gandolfini in an interesting position as the tough guy who gets out-toughed. When “The Drop” starts, we understand Gandolfini’s performance entirely, because it’s more or less the role he was born to play. But after his bar is hit for $5,000 of a crime lord’s money, he’s on the line for the cash with men that far outstrip his corner-store gangster reach, and we’re left with a shade of intimidation and desperate fear we’ve never seen from the actor.
Taylor: “The Drop” isn’t set in Boston, but there’s no mistaking it as a Dennis Lehane story. Lehane (“Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “Shutter Island”) wrote the screenplay himself based on his 2010 short story “Animal Rescue.” Seedy bars and small-time crime are the “where” and “what,” and men with more going on in their head than they let on is the “who.” As the story of Marv’s bar and Bob’s relationship with Nadia (Noomi Rapace, of the original “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) – a woman who helps him take care of the trash-bin puppy – goes on, we see more and more secrets coming to light. Characters who shouldn’t know each other do. The narrative is the unfolding of events premeditated by the characters prior to the start of the film, and the slow-burning effect is in finding out this parish’s secrets.
There are some pitfalls of the genre that make their way into this film, like John Ortiz’s detective character who, like many crime drama cops, appears to be the only on-duty officer in New York City yet is persistently capable of showing up at all the right places at all the right times. While there are also a few “evil Russian” (Chechen in this case) stereotypes on display, it’s Matthias Schoenaerts’s unpredictable antagonist character that gives Hardy and Gandolfini an equal match to spar with.
Josef: None of the film’s villains, particularly the Russian villain archetypes, really came off as menacing. And Matthias Schoenaerts’ character, whose scenes are essentially comprised of him showing up in places and looking scary, never struck me as anything more than a character that existed only to prove the superiority of Hardy’s character.
Taylor: How did you feel about the use of the dog, Rocco, as the implicator of most of what happens on-screen? Did you feel the ties between Rocco and Bob were too obvious and literary (drawing quick parallels between what someone may assume about a pitbull and a guy like Bob) or a helpful addition of complexity?
Josef: I think the dog was extremely crucial to the story. I think the dog is really the only character or object in the film that clearly differentiates Eric and Bob based on how we see them treat the dog. By the end, Rocco helps further solidify that Bob does what he does out of necessity, while Eric does it simply to create chaos, which is a crucial distinction to make in this seedy crime underworld.
September 12, 2014
1 hr. 46 min.
Michaël R. Roskam
Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Michael Aronov, Michael Esper, Ann Dowd