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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Drop movie review (London Film Festival)

The Drop green light

Cements Tom Hardy’s reputation as one of the most effortlessly mesmerizing actors working today.
I’m “biast” (pro): love the cast

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Bob Saginowski is the sweet, kind — he rescues an abused and abandoned puppy! — loner bartender at his cousin Marv’s Brooklyn bar, a divey neighborhood place that’s owned by local mobsters and occasionally used by them as a “drop,” a collection point, for ill-gotten takings. Oh, it’s not the old-fashioned, respectable Italian mafia, which once had room for Marv (James Gandolfini [The Incredible Burt Wonderstone], in the last thing we’ll ever see him in), but crazy Chechen bastards, the kind of people whom no one would dare cross. So who the hell was dumb enough to hold up Marv’s place and piss off the Chechens? Even the cops aren’t inclined to get too mixed up this one, which leaves Marv and Bob to try to figure out whodunnit and get back the money… money they still owe to the bosses, of course.

If the marvelous one-man cinematic show that was Locke proved that Tom Hardy could hold the screen on his own for an hour and a half, then The Drop cements his reputation as one of the most effortlessly mesmerizing actors working today. This is entirely his movie, his Bob a stolid figure of a simple man on the periphery of a life of crime and savagery that, it seems, he simply isn’t cut out for but cannot avoid. But there’s something enigmatic about him, too, in the discomfort that appears to haunt him about his own kindnesses: he almost instantly regrets taking on that puppy, that for instance. And he has little idea what to make of skittish, wounded Nadia (Noomi Rapace: Passion) and her ex, Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts: Blood Ties); the puppy is a casualty of their violent relationship, which Bob now finds himself in the middle of.

Based on the short story “Animal Rescue,” by Dennis Lehane (which you can read online here, or in the anthology Boston Noir), this movie shares one strong motif with other films based on his crime fiction, including Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River: the unexpected impact of violence on ordinary people. Hardy’s Bob lumbers through The Drop like violence is a shadow he can’t shake, which lends even the sporadic moments of gruesome black comedy here a startling pathos.

viewed during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

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The Drop (2014)
US/Can release: Sep 12 2014
UK/Ire release: Nov 14 2014

MPAA: rated R for some strong violence and pervasive language
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, violence)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • RogerBW

    Interesting. The trailer made it look like just another story about nasty men doing nasty things to each other, in the same vein as A Walk Among the Tombstones.

  • This is much much better and more interesting.

  • Kathy_A

    I’m currently re-watching Band of Brothers, and I keep being startled over seeing actors at early stages of their careers in blink-and-you-miss-them roles–Simon Pegg, Michael Fassbender, and Tom Hardy, who we get to see mostly-nude while his character is boffing a young German woman.

  • LaSargenta

    Saw this last night and have to say it is a great character study movie, and not just for the Bob character.

    It does make me wonder where the blazes the NYC actors (or american ones at least) are working. This had a Swede, a Brit, and a Belgian all playing native Brooklyn people. Next two biggest roles were Gandolfini’s and a Yank playing a Chechen. Everyone did a great job, but, still, makes me wonder.

  • Bluejay

    Maybe the New York actors were all busy playing Europeans.

  • LaSargenta

    I’ve been wondering if there is just a better infrastructure for actors to develop in other countries. Here, many movies (and even television shows) want to take people with a “proven” draw and that means the audience has to know the actors already to some extent. The actors who are ‘known’ are more likely to be people who have been in lots of roles and gotten visible. It seems the American movies and shows are less likely to take risks maybe because more money is put into everything and it has to immediately be commercial, so there’s less room for people to develop in their craft. So, we’ve gotten Toni Collette, Tom Hardy, Sam Worthington, Matthais Schoenaerts, Michael Fassbender, Clive Owen, Noomi Rapace, Ian McShane, Eddie Marsan, Paula Malcomson, Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter, and so many others playing roles, even in small movies, that I’d have expected US raised and trained actors to play. I was trying to think of US actors going the other way and all I could come up with aside from Michael Araonov in this movie was Liev Schreiber in Mental playing an Australian.

    Or, maybe just people from other countries are better with the variety of code switching that is channeling dialects and local body language.

  • I’ve been wondering if there is just a better infrastructure for actors to develop in other countries.

    I’ve discussed this many times. It’s *much* easier to be a starving artist — as many actors are while they develop their craft — when you’ve got nationalized health care and government-supported arts programs (though that latter is becoming more problematic in the UK in recent years).

  • Bluejay

    I think getting “proven draw” actors is more a factor in the movies than in TV shows; a lot of the shows I follow aren’t necessarily built around already-known actors. (Although it IS still true, even if they aren’t well-known, that a lot of those actors aren’t from the US.)

    As for US actors playing non-Americans — I agree it doesn’t seem to happen as much, but it does happen. There’s Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man, Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones, Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes, Rooney Mara in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake, Robin Wright in that same movie as well as Princess Bride, Renee Zellweger in the Bridget Jones films, Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love, Chloe Grace Moretz in Hugo, Kevin Kline in probably a bunch of stuff… I suppose Kevin Costner in Robin Hood and Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins don’t count. :-)

    I think what MAJ says about the importance of a safety net for starving artists is on point.

  • LaSargenta

    I agree with the point about the social support with health care and programs supported by more than tuition, but by ‘infrastructure’ I also mean acting outlets — radio plays, lots of different television programs, movies of various budgets. Here, an awful lot of programming is filled with, guess what, things made elsewhere. PBS just for example usually has its fiction made in the UK. And we have NO radio plays that I’ve stumbled across recently. (I’m ignoring rebroadcasts of old “golden age of radio” things.)

  • LaSargenta

    Oh, it happens but it is rare. I mean, look at your list. Those are individual roles. Just to take one minor actor for instance, I have never seen Joel Edgerton in a role where he didn’t have a US accent until I stumbled over The Hard Word…which was such a straight-to-video Australian movie that I went looking to see where he was from.

    I would quibble about using Princess Bride there, though, as that was a Mythical Kingdon in a book being read by Peter Falk. And, no Robin Hood and Mary Poppins don’t count. :-)

  • Bluejay

    Here, an awful lot of programming is filled with, guess what, things made elsewhere.

    I wonder if that impression depends a lot on what we tend to watch. There are plenty of US-made shows. But yes, it is striking that a lot of the American-accented characters on those shows are played by non-Americans. (And some high-profile series from US-based studios like Game of Thrones and Outlander *seem* like imports, in featuring lots of non-US actors and no US accents.)

    Creatively, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s good that non-US actors are getting opportunities on US shows, and that casting directors are thinking internationally when hiring talent, and that imported shows are increasing their American audience’s appreciation for things made elsewhere. But yeah, it does raise the question of where the US actors are in the mix.

  • LaSargenta

    I agree that creatively it isn’t a bad thing. I’m just struck by it.

    Considering the broad range of interesting US actors and ‘small’ or ‘local’ films made in the US in the 60’s – 80’s, I’m just wondering where and how the incubation is happening now.

    Mind you, I’m no cultural arbiter…I live under a rock and probably am really limited in my anecdotes.

  • There are some many non-American actors who consistently play American roles (or whose most prominent roles with American audiences have been American) whom audiences don’t even realize aren’t American. I know *lots* of people who were stunned to learn that Hugh *House* Laurie is British.

  • I’m not sure the incubation *is* happening, not on any meaningful scale. And a lot of the problem with that is that so many young American “actors” aren’t actually interested in acting: they just want to be famous. And many of the roles open to young “actors” don’t really require much talent: big-budget genre films and sitcoms are not very demanding, artistically.

  • RogerBW

    Including Bryan Singer who cast him for the role thinking he was American.

  • LaSargenta

    That might be a huge part of it…we just don’t demand much of them.


  • Ha! I did not know that.

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