The Unusual Wise Guy: “The Drop” (2014)

Who doesn’t love a good film about organized crime? I certainly do. “The Drop,” directed by Michael R. Roskam, is a crime thriller film that stars Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and James Gandolfini. I was chomping at the bit to see this film- I am a huge Tom Hardy fan. I enjoyed him in “The Dark Knight Rises” and was blown away by his acting chops when I saw him play a Prohibition-era bootlegger in “Lawless.”

Hardy is great at portraying characters who are morally ambiguous and yet respectful (in a sense), and this part was no exception; you definitely get the sense that messing with this guy would not be in your best interest, but he is still extremely likable. In “The Drop” he plays Bob Saginowski, a Brooklyn bartender working with his cousin, Marvin (Gandolfini), in a money-laundering ring for the Chechen Mafia. He meets Nadia (Rapace), a waitress, one night on his way home after finding a beaten pit bull puppy in her trash can. I will admit that I was immediately wary when I heard the puppy’s whimpering on screen- I can’t stand to see an animal injured- people on the other hand… well, let’s just say I’m less squeamish when it comes to human violence. But the constant fear of the puppy coming to harm ignited an undertone of stress throughout the entire film for me; a stream of anxiety coursing through my veins while I looked on, helplessly.

Many of this film’s plot points are woven into Bob and Marvin’s relationship, and we see a division develop between them as Marvin becomes desperate to regain his financial independence from the Chechens. Bob’s benign personality gives way to something to more peculiar, his seemingly kind and harmless demeanor is slowly chipped away as we see him handle shady situation after shady situation with incredible skill and an underplayed cleverness, and we get the sense that Bob has been cleaning up Marvin’s messes for a long time. In spite of all their trouble, Bob makes the declaration to Nadia that although he is surrounded by sinister characters, he does not engage in their activity.

The relationship between Nadia and Bob is timid and reserved at the start of the film, marred by abuse and isolation she experienced in her previous relationship with Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), whose mental instability and hostile nature is increasingly revealed as he inserts himself into Bob’s life in an effort to destroy the budding relationship between the pair. Rapace plays this role with what I regard as her signature blend of victim and heroine. She shows intense vulnerability without seeming weak, and she knocks it out of the park with this role.

In one of James Gandolfini’s final roles before his untimely death, he grounds the film with a foundation of what I consider traditional wise-guy behavior. This film is an exciting combination of new and old; Hardy brings a freshness to the crime drama genre, while Gandolfini’s performance marks this film with a stamp of authority and authenticity we crave back from the days of “The Sopranos.”

The casting of this film is brilliant, and the energy and chemistry between the actors activate a slow burn throughout the film that finally combusts at the end in an intense mix of violence, revelation, and revenge. In short, this is the perfect date night movie- you’ll have plenty to talk about once it’s over.

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