A typical crime/mafia film about money, redemption, morally conflicted souls, and…a dog?
Over the 100ish years of film making, the Crime/Mafia flicks have been done and redone about a bagillion times (and that’s not even over-exaggerating). The hard part for modern day gangster flicks is trying to put a new spin on the genre, with sadly little to no avail. What came as a surprising refreshment to me was that Michaël R. Roskam’s new film “The Drop” is that he didn’t really try to mix things up at all, instead he simplified it.
The setting is quite basic. An easy going Bob Saginowski is a bartender at a Mob owned bar working for his cousin Marv in a bleak Brooklyn. When an unexpected robbery goes awry in his bar, ugly truths and conspiracies start to present themselves about many in his neighborhood, and even his loved ones. Bob is himself an evident easy going individual. The biggest problem he seems to be enduring during all of this is the threat of losing his new friends, a stray dog and his friendly new neighbor Nadia. Not exactly the stuff of Mafia legends, is it?
On the surface this film might seem like a slow paced version of a thousand different crime movies out there. Yet, it is director Roskam’s character driven direction that truly shows this film for what it’s worth. The film presents what appears to be a timid main character, when really, the films slow progression reveals that he is the definition of strength under control. He is actually an individual with a troubled past, who is trying his very best to make the rest of his little life into something respectable. The same can be said about his new found friend Nadia, who has her own inner demons. Adding a dog into the mix might sound a bit “Old Yeller”ish, but it shows a true nature about this film. The film comes from a short story called “Animal Rescue” which is quite fitting. That is not only because it is about the rescue of said dog, but also about the rescue of the apparent “animals” of Bob and Nadia trying to somehow find a good future, in spite of their evil pasts.
The production values are likewise top value. Tom Hardy, my present Hollywood muse, gives a performance almost precisely like that of the film he inhabits. It may not come off across as his most emotionally endearing performance, like those of “Locke” or “Warrior.” But what is soon evident is that he is also showing much restraint in this case. He truly becomes this man of timid and sympathetic characteristics, all the while displaying a powerful force to be reckoned with. He is not alone in his mastery. He is joined by the lovely Noomi Rapace and the late James Gandolfini, who each give Oscar deserved performances. While the content might be a downer for many (and rightly so). There are a handful of brutally violent moments, but it is not over excessive. The real squabble someone might have is with its harsh profanities throughout (including many F bombs). Yet, because of the simplistic, yet fantastic production values, I would recommend trying it out on a Clearplay or TVG player if possible.
There is one brief moment near the end of the film where we see Bob at his lowest. In that moment he says something interesting. It is roughly the idea that when he dies, and (assumedly) when God rejects his soul, the real hell will not be fire, but will really be him being all alone. While the statement is not quite accurate in assuming there is not hell, Bob is on the right track. He understands that the true terror will be distance from everyone, especially God. The statement is something that interestingly enough describes the film. We see two broken individuals seeking something greater in their life. While we never see them truly repent completely, we do see them vie for a new and fresh start. In short, we see them get on the right path, even though it is not fully seen on screen. The film itself is, as was said, nothing momentously new. It never quite gets to the point of complete repentance like Brando’s “On the Waterfront,” nor does it show one man versus the whole mob like Hanks’ “Road to Perdition.” But what it is is an origin story of sorts; the point which leads us in the right direction. If you are looking for complete action, originality, or even Gangster-esque in this film, than look elsewhere. If you are, however, looking for a new twist on the typical crime story featuring compelling characters and some thoughtful messages, than this just might be the place to look.