Monday, September 22, 2014

The Drop

*** out of ****

In The Drop, - the latest film to be based on Dennis Lehane (Mystic River) fiction - Belgian film director, MichaĆ«l R. Roskam, relishes in the depths of gritty American noir with the excitement of an outsider’s eye. The unkempt blue-collar Brooklyn neighborhood is captured with fascination, as are the players who captivate us with their poker-faced intimidation.

The story focuses on a bar, which holds dirty money for Chechen mobsters who have been in control of the place for years since its owner, Marv, fell into difficult financial circumstances. One night, the place is robbed by armed men in masks leaving Marv under suspicion from the gangsters to have orchestrated an inside job.

Marv is played by the late James Gandolfini in his final screen appearance, which feels like a hybrid of many characters he’s played. This one, however, has a sorry edge to his spirit giving us a somber finale performance for this great actor.

Three members of the principal cast, are European actors. While their Brooklyn accents are questionable, their emotional performances are not. Tom Hardy plays Bob, the film’s lead protagonist, who knows how to stay calm under the tension brought on by Marv’s problems as well as his own. Aside from his astounding range as an actor, this British talent continues to have a fascinating screen presence.

Bob is a quiet bartender whose demeanor is similar to Sylvester Stallone’s lesser-known role from Cop Land. He’s hard to read but he’s humble and would rather avoid trouble. In the days following the suspicious robbery, a local detective, played by John Ortiz, senses decency in Bob and digs for information to no avail.

When walking through his neighborhood one night, Bob finds a beaten pit bull puppy yelping in a garbage can. He alerts the owner of the garbage can, who cautiously lets Bob into her house with the pup where she tends to its wounds and encourages the lonely Bob to take it in.

The woman’s name is Nadia, who is played by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tatoo). A simple romance blooms between the two, which proves to be troublesome when a neighborhood thug (Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts), who may be connected with Nadia’s past, takes a strange and threatening interest in their puppy.

Lehane’s screenplay, based on his own short story originally titled Animal Rescue, lacks any unnecessary complexities, keeping its characters mysterious and provokes us to regularly second-guess their intentions. While the twists in its conclusion felt a little predictable to me, they also felt rather welcome. Roskam’s direction and composer Marco Beltrami’s score also have the kind of hypnotism necessary to make a slow story like this one so enthralling.

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