THE DROP. Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfi, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz. Directed by Michael R. Raskam. 106 minutes. Rated MA (Strong violence and coarse language).
The Drop has a screenplay by Dennis Lehane, whose novels, Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island, have been made into significant and powerful films by Clint Eastwood, Ben Affleck and Martin Scorsese. This film has been directed by the Belgian, Michael R. Raskam.
Early in the film, there is an explanation of money collection in Brooklyn, the Italian standover thugs having been replaced by migrants from Chechnya, still keeping up the tradition of violence and brutality. Money is collected from various enterprises, put in small brown paper bags, covered with newspaper, and taken to various bars in Brooklyn and quietly dropped into a concealed safe. The gangsters have a random choice of bars so that any robberies will not be anticipated. The money is collected in the early hours of the morning.
The audience finds itself in a particular bar, managed by Marv (the final performance by James Gandolfini, reprising similarities to his role as Tony Soprano but this time, something of a failure, desperate for a last chance). Behind the bar is his cousin, Bob, who has worked with Marv for many years. The bar is generally busy, has its regulars like a group toasting a dead friend or Millie, who Marv once thrown out until she pays her bills but Bob, he is that kind of person, pays for her drinks.
Bob is the central character for the film. He is played by Tom Hardy who has proven himself a significant actor over the years, an actor who can take on a variety of roles and whose facial expressions, body language, communicate with subtlety the inner life of his characters. He was the brutal Bronson, one of the moonshine brothers in Lawless, significant in Inception, the villain in The Dark Night Rises.
One night, masked robbers steal the money and the Chechens are not very happy. There is a twist in discovering who organised the robbery and the consequences for the robbers, one being run over, the other being set up for a big robbery, on the night of the drop. This character, Eric, is played by the Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaertsd who was the star of Michael R.Raskam’s Bullhead. He also appeared effectively in Rust and Bone, a good actor who can bring the sinister to his roles. The other central character is Nadia, (Noomi Rapace,The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Eric’s former girlfriend and now a friend of Bob, especially when a pitbull terrier has been bashed by Eric and put in the garbage, Bob hearing it as he passes by and rescues it. (The name of Denis Lehane’s short story is Animal Rescue.)
The dog is important for the film, appealing to ob’s warm instincts, his treating it, is Marv taunts him, like his child. Nadia is happy to help with the dog.
These are all elements that commentators make explicit on the film – but it is interesting that no one talks about the role of the Catholic Church in Bob’s life. It is interesting that Denis Lehane has introduced these elements and that the director has portrayed the contemporary church and its liturgy quite accurately as well as some of the controversial issues of the time. Bob goes to Mass every day but does not go to Communion. He sits in the church, prays, one day the priest letting him in early. In the church there is a statue of St Roch, St Rocco, with his dog – which means that Bob’s dog is given the name of Rocco. The detective (John Ortiz) investigating the robbery and other crimes in the neighbourhood is also a Mass-goer, and discusses this with Bob, asking why he does not go to Communion. The detective himself is not keen on the Sign of Piece (which is shown in one sequence) and is all against the style of contemporary hymns. He is also concerned, and discusses this was Bob, that the church, with its small attendance, is about to be sold and turned into condominiums.
As we learn more about Bob, and the complexities of his life and attitudes, especially violence and his loyalty to Marv, we realise that, under a seemingly serene surface, he is a man of violence but yet having convictions about justice and right. He is a character that Graham Greene, with his novels’ tormented religious characters, would appreciate, especially Bob speculating as to whether, after his death, God would turn him away from heaven.
Audiences interested in this kind of New York crime film will find much to appreciate in the plot, its twists, the central characters, their dilemmas, all presented in dark shades, where life is complicated, and there is more grey than black and white.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released November 13th 2014.