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The puppy becomes a reason for Tom Hardy (playing Bob) and Noomi Rapace (Nadia) to bond in working-class Brooklyn. (Barry Wetcher SMPSP/Twentieth Century Fox)
The puppy becomes a reason for Tom Hardy (playing Bob) and Noomi Rapace (Nadia) to bond in working-class Brooklyn. (Barry Wetcher SMPSP/Twentieth Century Fox)

The Drop: A modest tale with great appeal Add to ...

  • Directed by Michael R. Roksam
  • Written by Dennis Lehane
  • Starring Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Mathias Schoenaerts and Noomi Rapace
  • Classification 14A
  • Country USA
  • Language English

A shy Brooklyn bartender, an abused puppy and a middle-aged man looking for a last-chance score, set wheels in motion in The Drop, a crime drama adapted by Dennis Lehane from his short story, Animal Rescue. Though the story is modest in length and depth compared to other adaptations of Lehane’s work (Mystic River, Shutter Island), Belgian director, Michael R. Roskam (Bullhead) treats the material with reverence, and the working-class Brooklyn setting with a painterly eye.

There are several appealing hooks here: This is the final film performance from James Gandolfini (as Marv), in his familiar wounded bear mode. There’s also Noomi Rapace (she starred in the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as another hurt soul, and the imposing Belgian actor, Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead, Rust and Bone) as her violent former boyfriend. Secondary American characters, including Ann Dowd, as Marv’s live-in sister, and Jon Ortiz as a sharp Hispanic cop, provide the local colour, all held together with Lehane’s flavourful diaogue.

In truth, that’s just the scaffolding. The Drop is really just another chance for Tom Hardy to drop some of his acting science on us. The baby-faced English actor, whose shape-shifting skills have earned comparisons to Marlon Brando and Gary Oldman.

Following his roles in Christopher Nolan’s Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, and his tour-de-force earlier this year in the film, Locke, he’s very much the actor of the moment. Here, as a convincing shy, working-class Brooklyn native, he gives us a fresh cuddly-but-menacing side.

First heard in voiceover, in a softly rasping Bruce Springsteen drawl, Hardy’s character explains that various bars in the borough are used as “drop bars” where illegal earnings can be temporarily stashed. One of those joints is Cousin Marv’s, where Bob Saginowski (Hardy), pours the beer while the erstwhile owner, Marv (Gandolfini) growls and criticizes. A few years before, Marv was forced to sell his joint to some Chechen heavies, represented by Chovka (Michael Aronov). Then, one night, the bar gets robbed – and the suspicious Chechens insist that Marv and Bob find who has the money.

And then, a second source of pressure: Bob finds a half-dead pit bull puppy in a garbage can. The owner of the can, but not the dog, is Nadia (Rapace), and the pup, named Rocco, becomes a reason for them to bond. The catch is that Bobby finds himself stalked by Eric (Schoenaerts), a homicidal neighbourhood thug who claims ownership of both the dog and Nadia.

The intersection of the two stories – about pup and the robbery – never feels especially natural here, though it’s a minor distraction. The interest here is about watching Hardy, bouncing off Gandolfini and the other cast members, as a quiet man who has turned being underestimated into his primary survival skill. And all the while we wait for the moment when Bob the puppy grows into Bob the pit bull.

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