Acting Tops in Hardy Thriller

By Chang, Justin | Variety, September 16, 2014 | Go to article overview

Acting Tops in Hardy Thriller


Chang, Justin, Variety


Acting Tops in Hardy Thriller

For all the moderately surprising twists served up in "The Drop," the big revelation turns out to be no revelation at all: Man, that Tom Hardy can act. Like an adorable puppy that turns out to boast an extremely sharp set of teeth, Hardy's skillfully restrained performance as a mild-mannered Brooklyn bartender who finds himself an unwitting pawn in all manner of crooked schemes isn't just the film's strongest element; it's the reason this serviceably constructed thriller remains as absorbing as it does, despite a succession of ham-fisted plot turns and goombah stereotypes. Dennis Lehane's first adaptation of his own work feels minor compared with "Mystic River," "Gone Baby Gone" and "Shutter Island," but it's not without its lowkey pleasures, including a sturdy final screen performance from the late James Gandolfini. Fox Searchlight should expect some decent dough from this Sept. 12 release.

Fans of Lehane's pungent Boston crime fiction may be a bit surprised that the scribe has relocated his Dorchester, Mass.-set short story "Animal Rescue" (the film's original title) to Brooklyn for the purposes of the film, though under the smooth direction of Belgian filmmaker Michael R. Roskam ("Bullhead"), there's no major loss in seedy atmosphere. As Hardy's happily infrequent voiceover informs us at the outset, the borough is home to any number of drinking establishments that double as "drop bars" - places where, on very rare nights, large quantities of dirty money can exchange hands away from the prying eyes of the police. Manning the counter at Cousin Marv's is Bob Saginowski (Hardy), a soft-spoken, hard-working type who likes to keep his head down while Marv (Gandolfini) tends to the shadier dealings at the behest of Chovka (Michael Aronov), the Chechen crime lord who owns the bar.

That Bob dutifully attends Mass every morning but abstains from taking communion is an early clue that there's more to this gruff but likable heavy than meets the eye. Whatever it may be, Hardy does a fine job of keeping the audience guessing: All we can assume is that he's been scarred by some distant trauma, which may explain why he reacts with such fear when two masked robbers enter the bar and empty the register late one evening. Chovka and his thugs order them to recover the money.

The film sets up a second narrative track in which Bob discovers a pitbull puppy in someone's garbage, brutally beaten and left for dead. With the help of an attractive neighbor, Nadia (Noomi Rapace), he nurses the dog back to health. …

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