Dennis Lehane is one of my favourite contemporary authors. Responsible for novels such as Mystic River, Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone; all of which have made successful translations to screen; his Boston-based stories of crime and murder are amongst the most thrilling I’ve read. The Drop, based on his short story Animal Rescue, marks Lehane’s first foray into feature length scriptwriting, and is just as successful as his previous adaptations. Set in Brooklyn, the film opens with Tom Hardy’s Bob Saginowski telling us through voiceover how local bars are now and again used as a temporary bank for local mobsters to stash their dirty money. A simple bartender at his cousin Marv’s establishment, his normal life becomes complicated when they are held up by armed robbers and money that belongs to Chechen gangsters is stolen.
That’s all you really need to know about The Drop, a film where the less you know going in the more likely you are to enjoy it. I found it to be a joy, and there are two reasons why it works as well as it does. The first is of course the script from Lehane. Concise and straight to the point, the one hour and forty five minute running time flies by whilst still managing to tell a fully formed story rich with layers. All together complicated and yet quite simple, there are many twists and turns that will leave you guessing throughout; whilst like all great mysteries, the answer is there in front of you the whole time. An Irish Catholic, Lehane’s stories have always been steeped in religion and morality and this is no different as the plot becomes more about guilt, escaping one’s past and the grey areas between right and wrong. Like most of characters created by Lehane, those in The Drop are flawed but likeable, with reasons for their actions that will have you debate and question your own ethical high ground. I love that it challenges its audience in that respect, but still manages to be tense.
What really makes the film stand out are the central performances from James Gandolfini and Tom Hardy. A fitting final role for Gandolfini, his character Marv is a former somebody who still craves the respect and power he feels is owed to him. He plays it with all the quiet intensity that we’ve come to expect from him and the performance is a bitter sweet reminder of all of his talent that we’ll never see tapped again. Tom Hardy does steal the show though, and puts in one of my favourite pieces of acting I’ve seen all year. His character Bob has shades of Rocky Balboa about him, a good natured and lonely soul, who at times comes across as slow but nevertheless happy with his seemingly simple life. There’s a great deal of nuance in his performance, and whilst being completely charismatic, he gives the subtle sense of something else bubbling beneath the surface in one simple facial twitch. The film’s success really rests on his shoulders and fortunately he carries it really well with a Brooklyn accent that beats his Welsh one from Locke, and an on-screen presence that is riveting to watch.
With fine work from the cast involved and an electric script that manages to take sequences within a bar and turn them into tense and terrifying moments, I’m elated to say that The Drop is a thriller that follows through with the thrills. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel, and is a special little film with a twist that will stay with you for quite some time.
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