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Good guy alienated from God


The Drop (MA). Director: Michaël R. Roskam. Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ann Dowd. 106 minutes

Bob (Hardy) is a fundamentally decent working man. He tends bar for his cousin Marv (Gandolfini) at a pub named, aptly, Cousin Marv's, and is as generous as he is taciturn. During The Drop's opening scene, he shouts a round for a group of patrons to toast their late friend, and allows one elderly regular to drink for free, much to Marv's disgust.

Bob is certainly not the kind of man to, say, turn a blind eye to the plight of an injured dog. Sure enough, one night while walking home he is drawn to the cries of a young pitbull, whom he finds bleeding in a lidded rubbish bin. Although painfully unaccustomed to caring for a pet, Bob decides to take the poor creature into his care.

This chance meeting with a dog (which he subsequently names Rocco after a favourite saint) is fateful for two reasons. First, it brings Bob into contact with Nadia (Rapace), a financially-struggling animal lover — and owner of the aforementioned rubbish bin — who before long takes a cautious shine to the nervy but mild-mannered Bob.

But Bob's spontaneous pet ownership and friendship with Nadia also pits him against Nadia's ex — and Rocco's former owner — Eric (Schoenaerts), an affable, dead-eyed menace who is not only down with beating up girlfriends and puppies but who is also known to boast of killing the same man whom Bob's barflies had earlier been toasting.

Marv, meanwhile, is nonplussed by Bob's canine dramas — he's beset by other beasts. His bar is a popular drop point for the ill-gotten gains of local Chechen crime lords, and these 'Chechnyans' (as Marv is wont to call them) are out for blood ever since Bob and Marv allowed the bar to be robbed at gunpoint.

Marv's own financial difficulties run deep, and are deeply personal. His elderly father is on life-support, which Marv refuses to have switched off, despite its drain on his dire bank balance and the entreaties of his careworn, matronly sister Dottie (Dowd). Marv is a man with a plan, however, in which Bob and Rocco have an unlikely part to play. 

The Dennis Lehane short story on which The Drop is based is entitled 'Animal Rescue', but even without this clue it is easy to see that Rocco, his physical wounds and the neglect he has suffered, are emblematic of the film's human characters — a network of loners and emotional invalids in need of rescuing from circumstance or self.

If Bob at first appears to be the most 'together' of them all — despite his tics and nervous introspection — then there are signs aplenty that this may not be the case. For one, consider the fact that he dutifully attends Mass but, when the time comes to take communion, remains conspicuously in his seat. Bob is a man with sinful secrets.

Lehane's script simmers with humour and humanity, and in Roskam's hands plays out as a brooding, contemplative crime drama. Pay close attention to the many gentle and sometimes brutal convolutions of the plot; nothing here is incidental, and the film positively thrums with pertinent detail, despite its sombre tone.

The Belgian filmmaker brings a gritty European sensibility to this most American of genres that helps The Drop stand out from the pack of similarly themed post-Sopranos films.

His film is made all the more captivating by the performances of Hardy and the late Gandolfini, whose characters' every cruelty or kindness hums with unhealed hurt or untapped compassion. Bob is a man alienated even from God, and for him at least The Drop is an unconventional redemption story.

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is assistant editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Tim Kroenert, The Drop, Michaël R. Roskam, Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Dennis Lehane



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Existing comments

Sounds like a film worth seeing. BTW, frequent Communion is a fairly recent - I mean since about the Early 20th Century. Prior to that for centuries Catholics communicated fairly irregularly. Ditto Anglicans. Interesting to find out about Bob's redemption.

Edward Fido | 05 November 2014  

Thanks tim. I really enjoy your reviews; and act on them!

Eugene | 06 November 2014  

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