There’s a new film out, written by Dennis Lehane, novelist behind Mystic River and Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone. It stars Tom Hardy and the late, great James Gandolfini, and Noomi Rapace. It is a crime thriller called The Drop.
It is a well-acted, occasionally interesting run at various tropes that amounts to almost, but not quite, a decent use of an hour and a half.
I would like to say there’s nothing wrong with The Drop, but there’s plenty wrong, from soup to nuts, and get your nuts out of my soup, huh?
This is a film in which Tom Hardy plays a soft-spoken bartender in Queens. His workplace — run by Gandolfini, as if he were a first grader who failed to receive an award for participation and never got over it — gets held up by ne’er-do-wells. This happens even though the dive is well-known as a ‘drop’ bar for the Chechen mafia, which means they use it as an occasional receptacle for illicit cash. Then Hardy’s Bob Saginowski finds a puppy in a trash can, as one does, and adopts it, as one does, befriending the withdrawn woman in whose refuse the dog suffered, as one does. That’s Noomi Rapace as Nadia. She stabbed herself in the neck with a kitchen implement while really high and likes dogs, too.
So yes, it is a film in which poor, desperate, hardluck souls are wrapped up in a violent mystery and overcome by dog affection. Lehane’s books have made decent scripts in the past. This one, though, based on his own short story, feels heavier than last year’s fruitcake. There is a trick to misdirection in mysteries and Lehane hasn’t mastered it, script-wise. His characters, even though embodied by some of the best actors around, fail to feel realized.
What kind of bartender has the extra cash to hire a regular dog sitter? Do our hero and the nosy cop really have to see each other every morning at Catholic mass? Could they find a more cliché point of connection? Why does the cop decide — seemingly on a whim — to investigate a long cold murder case instead of the robbery before him?
And if you’re going to rob the mob and then skip town, why would you do it twice?
It’s possible that much of the leadenness of the story should fall with a clunk at director Michael Roskam’s feet. He telegraphs when he should shut up and uses his actors poorly. This is Tom Hardy, not Sam Worthington. Give the man a challenge, not an accent.
And yet, there are moments in The Drop where the cinematography crystallizes in color and form. Where one sees Gandolfini and laments that his ability to communicate with a twitch of the cheek is gone for good. There are bones here of a bitter little noir, but in the end it’s all skeleton and no flesh.
Somewhere in between the script and the projector, The Drop falls flat. Sometimes it’s the odd placement of camera — such as when we inexplicably watch a car exit a residential garage from above and inside — and sometimes it’s the edits, which call out objects of no current purpose, but wait! Surely that lunking thing will come into play in Act III? Surprise!
I don’t have anything else to say about The Drop. Go watch The Lookout instead. Or Red Rock West. Or Criss Cross.
And pour one out for James Gandalfini, who deserves better.
Oh yeah. Everyone else likes this movie so you probably will, too.