Dir. Michaël R. Roskam
Scr. Dennis Lehane
Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Cousin Marv (James Gsndolfini in his last screen appearance) owns one of those warm, dark, well-lived-in neighbourhood Brooklyn taverns that feels like a home away from home for its working class patrons. You know the joint. Every burgh has them. It's a place to catch a game on the TV above the bar and shoot the shit with your best buds. The place is full of memories, most of them good. Some, however, are not so good.
Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) is the quiet personable bartender, a neighbourhood boy with the kind of two-fisted warmth you'd be likely to find in a Rocky Balboa-type, not in the ring, but rather the dirty, mean streets. Yeah, Bob's a thug, but at first glance, you'd never guess. You could know him your whole life and never know it.
Bob is certainly a far cry from the repellent Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts, brilliant star of director Roskam's great first feature Bullhead), a loudmouthed braggart and overall slime bag who pumped up his street-cred in prison by admitting to the killing of an old pal of Bob's. Deeds also used to date local gal Nadia (Noomi Rapace). She unwisely gave him the benefit of the doubt and suffered his mental and physical abuse upon her.
The paths of all four inevitably cross in screenwriter Dennis Lehane's solid character-driven crime drama that's directed with the low-key, slow-burn styling Michaël R. Roskam brought to the very odd and chilling Belgian crime thriller Bullhead in 2011. It's a tale of redemption and revenge that often feels familiar, but every so often, confounds you by taking turns in the plot that are almost always unexpected.
What feels initially like a heist picture and mystery when Cousin Marv's bar is held-up by masked thugs, transforms into a gentle romance that begins with Bob and Nadia discovering an abused Pit Bull puppy her front yard trash can.
What ultimately drives everything though are the demands made of Marv by the vile Chechen mobsters who use the bar as a drop point to launder their dirty money. The thugs, you see, have made off with mafia money and the gangsters are holding Marv responsible.
As the elements of this tale unravel in a slow, deliberate fashion, with emphasis placed on getting to know the protagonists amidst an extremely danger-fraught situation, the film eventually builds to a climax of almost unbearable suspense and shocking violence. We can feel the lava roiling and we know there's going to be an eruption, but the degree to which the molten elements of Lehane's great writing explodes surpasses all expectations.
It's what makes The Drop so good - familiarity with the tropes of the genre that keep being skewed.
The Drop is Roskam's first film in America and proves to be a fine sophomore work from a director who already proved to be a stylish talent to watch with his previous film, but now, after happily lucking out with a superbly-written script by the first-rate Lehane, he's solidly placed himself at the forefront of foreign directors who might well be the saviours of contemporary American cinema.
You can't really argue with that.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***1/2
The Drop has its World Premiere as a Special Presentation at TIFF 2014. For further info visit TIFF's website HERE. Distributor is Fox Searchlight Pictures.
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