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“The Drop” Review

The-Drop-movie-imageThe Drop was a nice surprise this week. I didn’t know much about it and wasn’t expecting anything, but it turned out to be a good time and certainly the movie I’d recommend this weekend if you live in one of the cities it’s opening. It’s a genre movie and nothing more, but a good genre movie.

When it opened with Bob (Tom Hardy)’s narration about “places in my neighborhood no one thinks about,” I was worried it was going to be one of those self-important crime movies where the characters hype up their own existence even though it’s banal. Really, all Bob’s doing is explaining how the bar he tends is a drop bar for mob money. The narration isn’t even necessary, but it’s unobtrusive.

Naturally, some thugs rob the bar, and it isn’t even on one of the drop nights, but the Chechen mob still wants their money back. Meanwhile, Bob finds a pit bull puppy in a trash can in Nadia (Noomi Rapace)’s back yard. That seems like a good way to bond with her until the dog’s abusive owner Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts) comes back.

Dennis Lahane’s screenplay, based on his own short story, builds tension deliberately with seemingly unrelated events falling into place together. Director Michael R. Roskam unveils them effectively, particularly with the score and editing of the climax. He uses the “soft focus revealing dangerous characters” a little too much, but it’s consistent. It’s all very satisfying when it comes together.

These sorts of crime thrillers rest on whether or not you care enough about the characters to see them make it out of this dangerous world. The Drop really understands the psychology of these characters in a way that gives the proceedings a different bent than the usual caper. Bob just seems like he doesn’t want to know all this stuff that people keep telling him. Eric is all ego. He doesn’t care about a dog or a person. He only cares that Bob is happy and that bothers Eric. Bob’s boss Marv (James Gandolfini) is a lovable grump who’s seen it all and who’s too old for this shit, who already wants the Christmas decorations down by December 27.

When the violence occurs, it’s sudden, brutal and yet mundane too. We’re all pretty savvy to the whims of criminals, so shocking isn’t shocking anymore. The fact that shocking can be mundane means more. Whether it’s handling some remains or executing some business, the violence provides the story and characters what they need.

Considering the story is all about money, I was surprised how fake the money shown on screen looked. I know it’s illegal (and unaffordable) to use real bills, but at least for singles and fives, we know what those look like. Can’t the art department get any closer? There is also a detective character who seems more obligatory than functional. He doesn’t really influence the story, yet he gets a big moment at the end. Maybe he’s supposed to be a red herring but he seems more of a waste of time (the character, not the actor) in a movie that doesn’t need any padding.

Those are minor issues though. I was wrapped up in The Drop from beginning to end, and I see movies like this all the time. It opens in select cities this week, but if you’re not in one of them, keep looking for it throughout September. The Drop is worth seeing.

Rating: Matinee