“There is no devil. I think some people die here and they go see God and he tells them no, you can’t come in. You will be alone…forever.”-Bob Saginowski
Tom Hardy is amazing and carries the latest Dennis Lehane joint, The Drop. The movie is a equal parts gangster thriller, subtle romance and quiet character study. It will be known as James Gandfolfini’s last completed work but let it be known that the film belongs to Hardy, rocking ANOTHER accent here as Bob Saginowski, a quiet calculating man who tends bar for Gandolfini’s Marv, a old lion still trying to play the criminal hustler game.
Michael R. Roskam’s direction, along with Lehane’s adaptation of his short story entitled Animal Shelter, keeps you off balance. The first half of the film is slow building and resembles the increasingly fast shaking of a tree. Little plot points fall to the ground throughout the 105 minute running time, but you don’t really know the characters until about halfway through. That’s good filmmaking and even better acting.
You have no clue what to make of Hardy’s Bob and that is the way it should be in this pot boiling thriller. Is he slow witted or slow? Is he up to something or is he just plain? Why is he so quiet yet observant? Hardy spins a cobweb around his character and keeps the viewer a distance. Like Russell Crowe or Clive Owen at their best, Hardy lets his facial expressions do the heavy lifting. A stare down with Belgium marvel Matthias Schoenaerts contains about four lines of dialogue but the way the two men stare at each other makes it seem like paragraphs are being recited. In this movie, dialogue doesn’t have to spoken for actions to be expressed. The actors don’t need to bore us with words. I felt like I knew these guys in one life and had no clue they existed in another. There is a darkness in Hardy’s Bob that I couldn’t put my finger on until the climax of the film, when a bomb suddenly detonates inside the plot and springs the film towards its final resting place.
John Ortiz plays a perceptive detective. Noomi Rapace plays the woman that acts as the cartilage between Hardy’s lost soul and Schoenaerts rebellious felon. Michael Aronov creates a different kind of villain in the local gangster holding the iron over Marv’s head. The film is shot with a grim gray drenched look that fits the rugged story. The acting here is seamless but it can’t be said enough how key Lehane’s writing is. This is the same guy who created the worlds of Mystic River, Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone. Worlds that looked like a rabbit’s nest and bar full of criminals and degenerates but instead full of regretful sad people. His writing evokes classic Boston underground noir and his script places gold at the feet of the actors.
I have a good feeling Hardy could play any role and do it well. There are a handful of actors who create a connection with the audience ANY time they work. A group of performers who give a shit and respect that moviegoers pay with their money and their time. Hardy gets that. He doesn’t waste films. He doesn’t take films off or phone it in. Look at his work in Locke, Inception, Bronson, or Lawless. The different characters that he inhabits and brings to life. I think Hardy could follow me around and after a couple of days, play me in a movie. He is an actor who other actors want to watch work. Gandolfini plays a much sadder version of Tony Soprano here and is dynamite, but even he knows this movie belongs to Hardy. Bob’s relationship and connection with a lost pit bull sets the the groundwork of the plot, but Hardy never plays it like its a device. He treats it like it is real and makes it work.
The Drop is a good dose of September cinema. If you have been waiting for something REAL to land in theaters that makes you think a little, doesn’t show its hand too early and feels authentic, The Drop is your ride. It’s gritty, heartfelt and quite sinister. Towards the end, when the plot comes full circle and Hardy shows his true colors, you will know something special is going on.
The Drop doesn’t beg for your attention like some films. It lays bread crumbs and you come running. It’s authenticity is the key ingredient here. A film that knows exactly what it is. And it has Tom Hardy.