"I just tend the bar," Bob Saginowski innocently states in this under- the-radar gem of a film. Tom Hardy plays Bob, a quiet, reserved bartender at his cousin Marv's bar. Cousin Marv is played by James Gandolfini in his final role. The Drop is getting a lot of attention because of Gandolfini, who gives another memorable performance, but The Drop is much more than an opportunity to see one our generation's greatest actors one last time, it's one of the best films of the year.
In The Drop, Marv owns a local neighborhood bar that also happens to be a "drop bar", which means the bar essentially collects money from illegal betting and god knows what else and then delivers it to the local Chechen gang. Gandolfini plays Marv as a Tony Soprano that never was. A guy that tried to get into the game, but couldn't really cut it when the big guys came into town. Those "big guys" are the Chechen mob that have taken over Marv's bar. It's his bar in name only and he's relegated to serving drinks and cleaning up spills. Gandolfini plays Marv as a bitter, beaten down man. It's vintage Gandolfini and a perfect way to end a career that was cut way too short.
As one actor takes his final bow, it's another actor who officially arrives. The Drop is clearly Tom Hardy's film. Granted, Hardy certainly hasn't come out of no where. He burst on the mainstream scene with Inception and should have become a household name after his performance as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. He didn't, and I'm not really sure why. He seemingly has everything you'd want in a leading man.
Hardy's performance in The Drop should finally change that. I know it's early, but it's Oscar worthy. Hardy plays Bob with such an authentic nature that it's downright astounding. He really inhabits this character. Bob seems to take everything in stride, nothing seems to bother him. When he is confronted by the Chechen mobsters, he keeps his head down and chooses every word with precision, knowing that his life depends on it. Bob is non-threatening and unassuming and almost comes off as simple-minded, but as the film progresses, it's clear something is brewing beneath the surface. Bob is an example of a guy who is a product of his environment. He's a good man that doesn't really have a choice in life. He either adapts to survive or dies.
Bob also has a big heart as is evidenced when he rescues a puppy that has been beaten and literally thrown in the trash. This is where he meets Nadia, played by Noomi Rapace (Prometheus). Nadia is also reserved and seems wounded in some way. It makes sense that The Drop is written by Dennis Lahane (writer of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island) who adapted the film from his short story "Animal Rescue," a title with more than one meaning. Not only does Bob rescue an injured dog, but both he and Nadia seem like animals that need rescuing in one way or another.
The Drop is the kind of film that Hollywood just doesn't make anymore. It really does feel like it was ripped right out of the 80's. It has a slow, deliberate pace that perfectly builds suspense. The Drop is a character driven film that constructs each scene with great dialogue and fantastic acting. The director allows his characters to inhabit the world they live in. It's the wardrobe and the set design that really help bring everything together and add to the authenticity of the film. Everything seems organic and not like it's part of a movie set.
The Drop is a film lovers film. It has everything you could possibly ask for: a top notch cast, great direction, dialogue, set design, cinematography, and an understated score. You name it, and The Drop has it. It's easily one of my favorite films of the year. We need more films like The Drop. Go see it.