The working title of Animal Rescue for Michael R. Roskam’s Brooklyn crime drama, along with leaked snaps of Tom Hardy sporting a more than adorable puppy pitbull, may well have thrown a few people had they stuck with the title. Frustratingly The Drop has very little in common with Beethoven or Hotel for Dogs, but there’s still plenty of acting pedigree on offer for suburban housewives and film fans alike.

The Drop Film Review

Tom Hardy stars as Bob Saginowski – a bartender in the heart of gritty Brooklyn for his Uncle Marv (James Gandolfini). Bob’s life is changed when the bar is robbed at gun-point for $5k. The money belongs to the Chechen mob who use Marv’s bar as a drop-point for their bookmaking business. Bob and Marv need to make amends and rustle up the money ASAP.

En route home, Bob stumbles across a bin with said puppy beaten and bruised. The trashcan belongs to wary and vulnerable Nadia (Noomi Rapace) with the dog being placed there by Nadia’s menacing ex-lover Eric, played by the excellent Matthias Schoemaerts. Bob’s animal rescue and friendship with Nadia is thrown into turmoil by threats and escalating tension bought about by regular visits from Eric.

The Drop may look familiar in many ways. New York crime dramas are nothing new with the city lending itself to the insular and grubby underworld of crime. But the script is expertly crafted and this will be a contender for best ensemble cast of the year so far. The violence isn’t as frequent as you might expect but the film’s tension is richer and more palpable for it. This build in tension is also supplemented by an unassuming soundtrack that paces The Drop perfectly.

Tom Hardy has been on form lately with performances in Locke and The Drop that show the diversity he can offer. Hardy plays within himself and the ‘less is more’ ethos works wonders here. Bob Saginowski is a sweet, logical and loyal everyman. But you always feel as if he’s fighting tooth and nail to keep it that way. Noomi Rapace also gets her first chance this side of the Atlantic to show what she’s made of. Behind the strong facade of Nadia, there’s vulnerability bought about by her abusive former boyfriend. But it’s never over-hyped and fits like a glove alongside Hardy’s understated performance. As with Hardy, it’s all behind the eyes.

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The Drop’s selling point, however, is the final screen performance of James Gandolfini. Thankfully the film and his role are fitting of the honour. The Tony Soprano comparisons will obviously be used and there’ll be some truth behind them. Uncle Marv is a wounded man and the cogs are always working. The major difference is Uncle Marv’s emotions are a little more interior. In short, Gandolfini is brilliant. While Hardy owns the screen time, Gandolfini is never far from our thoughts and he dominates the film. It’s the motion picture role he should have been given years ago.

Much like it’s performances, The Drop bubbles away under the surface. ‘Slowburner’ is often overused to describe films with little substance, but this couldn’t be further from the truth here. Roskum’s US directorial debut is astute and fuses European subtlety and a Hollywood power-cast to create something memorable. Not to mention there’s plenty of top notch stubble and the dog performance of the year. Roskum is undoubtedly one for the future, and Gandolfini is undoubtedly one for the ages. May he rest in peace.

The Drop Film Review: 4 Stars

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