Tuesday 28 April 2015

The Drop

After 2011’s Bullhead, Michaël R. Roskam directs his English-language debut with The Drop. A fresh take on the thriller genre, or just more of the same? Out now on Blu-ray and DVD, is The Drop worth a look?

Before we get into the review, there’s something important we need to acknowledge about this film. The Drop features the final performance of the late great James Gandolfini. Starring in HBO’s The Sopranos from 1999 to 2007 and earning countless awards and nominations for his performance as troubled mob boss Tony Soprano, Gandolfini cemented himself as one of the finest actors of his generation. Since The Sopranos ended, he delivered exceptional performances in many films – and showed other sides to his ability. He played comedy in In The Loop, romance in Enough Said, and drama in Zero Dark Thirty. But on the 19th of June in 2013, just one month after shooting The Drop, James Gandolfini suffered a fatal heart attack on holiday with his family in Italy. He was 51 years old. Here we have his final performance. And what a fine, and almost fitting, performance for him to go out on. As bar-owner Marv, Gandolfini steals the show and is undoubtedly the highlight of the film. It’s just unfortunate that The Drop disappoints in most other areas.

Tom Hardy plays Bob, bartender at Marv’s bar. The bar is located in a rather dodgy neighbourhood and is often used as a ‘drop bar’, where dirty money is dropped and swapped and stored for the criminals of New York City. The area is rife with gangs and crime and illegal happenings, and the bar is, arguably, a criminal bank. The plot develops around this bar with robberies and double-crossings and police investigations and all other cliché crime thriller shenanigans you can think of. And you think that would just be the film. But, as if out of nowhere, an overdrawn plotline is introduced in which Bob finds an abandoned puppy and begins looking after it, with the help of local girl Nadia (Noomi Rapace).

This is where The Drop gets a bit unusual. On the one hand, you have this rather conventional run-of-the-mill crime thriller. On the other, you have this arguably out-of-place puppy plotline which sometimes feels like something right out of a romantic comedy. For the first hour, it feels like 2 films in one! The film is based on the short story ‘Animal Rescue’ by Dennis Lehane (who also provided the screenplay, fleshing out his story). I haven’t ready the source material so couldn’t say whether it follows the same narrative completely, but it felt rather distracting on screen. You didn’t really have chance to connect with one subplot or a character’s development before it was thrown to one side to make way for something else.

Now, I’m a fan of Tom Hardy. His performance in Locke was a tour-de-force and he was phenomenal in Bronson. But here? Something didn’t feel right. His American accent was alright on the whole (although he did slip up a few times), but he was missing something. I was never fully absorbed by his character and every time I saw him, I felt like I should’ve been thinking “here comes Bob!” But rather, I was thinking “oh look out, it’s Tom Hardy doing an impression of a cliché Brooklyn bartender”. He was good, but didn’t feel like he was giving it his all. But then I suppose he, along with the rest of the cast, are doomed in the sense that they’re acting opposite a final performance of a loved actor. Of course they’ll be in the shadow.

But don’t get me wrong, on the whole I enjoyed watching The Drop. I just didn’t feel like I was watching a big budget Hollywood film. It felt more like a straight-to-DVD effort, with its rather typical genre conventions all over the place, predictability, and average script. It almost IS straight-to-DVD, in that it had a rather short and unnoticed theatrical run and reportedly failed to make back the budget. The problem is, I felt like I’d seen it all before a hundred times. And by the time the credits were rolling, I wasn’t left with any post-film euphoria. I just felt a little disappointed and within a few minutes, I’d forgotten a majority of the film anyway.

But The Drop will always be remembered for featuring the final performance of James Gandolfini, and what a fine performance it was. Although unintentional, the performance has a very swansong-esque vibe to it. His character says towards the end of the film; “I was respected. I was feared. When I walked into a place, people sat up straight. They noticed.” We respected you, James. We noticed. And in some instances, we feared you. But we loved watching you. Your performances are timeless and you’ll never be forgotten.

As for The Drop itself…I’m going to just drop it 3/5 here.

See what I did there?


Sam Love

The Drop at CeX

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