Hardy excels, Gandolfini fades but as a film The Drop merely exists.
Boasting another committed performance from the diverse talents of Tom Hardy, The Drop is an interesting little small-scale film which doesn’t quite deliver on its individual parts.Based on the short story by acclaimed writer Dennis Lehane (he wrote the novels that were adapted into Shutter Island, Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone), and upon his own adapted screenplay, here brought to life by sophomore Director Michael R. Roskam (following his own acclaimed debut, Bullhead), The Drop has all the pedigree to be a great little gem, but simply collapses under the weight of its own overstretched-but-insubstantial narrative. It definitely feels like a short story, and the magnified portrayal of the various characters at once gives the film a nice character-driven edge, whilst also ultimately feeling a little dissatisfying because of a confused streak that runs throughout the piece.At once desiring to allow us insight into the life of a Tom Hardy’s Brooklyn bartender, who tends bar at an establishment which is owned by the Chechen mob, The Drop appears conflicted over whether or not to just commit to him being a simple man, or delve into a darker side to his nature that remains underdeveloped throughout. In many ways, this could have been a Brooklyn-set, Hardy-starring counterpart to Refn’s Gosling-starring Drive, but neither Roskam – nor likely the original Lehane story – appear prepared to commit so unflinchingly to embracing the scorpion in their supposed hero.
Revolving ungraciously around a distended tale of ripping off this bar-turned-drop-point for the Chechen mob, the story is actually much more focussed on the collection of individuals that live within this world, and crashes them together in an often visually stylish but frequently narratively clumsy fashion. An abandoned dog ultimately brings together Hardy’s bartender, Noomi Rapace’s wounded-bird neighbour, Matthias Schoenaerts’ intimidating street presence, the late James Galdolfini’s bitter old-timer, and John Ortiz’s fairly ineffective detective in a rich and atmospheric environment where they simply aren’t given enough to do. As an episode of The Sopranos, this would have probably been electric, but on the Big Screen it simply doesn’t have the presence or punch to captivate you for the duration, nor ultimately deliver on its promises.
This could have been a nice little Brookyln-set, Hardy-led variant on Drive, had they fully embraced the scorpion in his character.
Hardy is, still, an artist. After embracing a convincing Welsh accent for the literal one-man-show that was Locke (and, of course, doing Goldfinger-meets-Vader for The Dark Knight Rises), he goes full-Brooklyn here with an accent that will truly surprise – in a good way. He also commits to yet another very different role; he’s unpredictable and intriguing without carrying over many noticeable trademark Hardy-isms, even though the intentional conflict in his character’s design doesn't ultimately work. It’s nice to see Rapace and Galdolfini but they both appear to be a little wasted (Rapace's character's final note unravels all the superb work she does just one scene earlier), and it’s certainly a little sad that this was the last effort from the latter, because it feels like he still had plenty to give.
Ultimately probably best enjoyed on home formats, Netflix or even just Channel 4, The Drop doesn’t exactly strike out as a shining indie gem, but still has some nice elements on offer, most obviously Hardy himself. As with Locke – although with no comparative USP – it is quite an acquired taste, which is reliant upon you being prepared to watch it pretty much only for Hardy and Hardy alone. But that’s not such a bad thing at all given the standard of work he commits to.
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