What I remembered about the trailer for The Drop fooled me about what kind of movie I was getting into. Initially I believed it was a heist film. It’s certainly not that. There’s a few brief moments where one would think it was a gangster film. Which on the surface, I suppose, it is. But at its heart it’s a movie about one of my favorite topics for film: humanity and the problem of evil. (Let me also say, that if you haven’t seen the trailer, but by the time you’re done reading this you think you might want to watch this movie, avoid the trailer.)
First things first, however. This may be James Gandolfini’s last performance, but do not be deceived; this is Tom Hardy’s film. There is a delicious part for Matthias Schoenaerts as a villainous foil to Hardy and he turns in his usual excellent work. Noomi Rapace plays the love interest for Hardy’s character.
Gandolfini is Cousin Marv, a bar owner, and Hardy is Bob, the bartender. It’s not clear to me on a single viewing if they’re actually related, or if “Cousin” is a more in the nature of a familiar title, not unlike how Chinese gangsters will refer to higher-ranking members as an “older brother”. I suppose they might be second cousins or something, but the precise relationship is more defined by their interactions than any blood ties. We soon learn that Marv is not truly the owner any longer. The bar belongs in all ways that matter to a Chechen mob and they use it as a money drop; it’s a temporary collection point for dirty money from all kinds of illicit enterprises.
We get the sense that things haven’t changed much in Bob and Marv’s world for some time. They plod along in a monotony which grinds Marv’s gears and with which Bob has made peace, even if we suspect he is not a very happy man. Shortly after the film opens and this sameness is established, two events come along to jostle them out of their rut. Ominously, the bar is robbed by a pair of masked bandits who seem unfazed by the knowledge that they’re stealing the mob’s money. Marv seems incredulous, but hands over the till after making sure they understand what they’re doing. Bob irritates the Chechens by mentioning a clue about a broken watch to the cops before he remembers to keep his mouth shut and say nothing.
On a brighter and more hopeful note, Bob rescues an abused, abandoned pit bull puppy from a garbage can and meets the young woman whose garbage can it was (though it was not her dog!). Bob’s diffidence is so pronounced that it seems unlikely that he’s had much success with the ladies. He makes halting, clumsy efforts to get to know Nadia (Rapace), and she cautiously reciprocates his interest. Bob doesn’t seem to be the brightest guy, he lives alone since his parents died, and has few friends or connections beyond Marv. Nadia has had her own difficult experiences, bad relationships, and once nearly killed herself while high as a kite, but they seem to be inching towards happiness with each other.
But events shift, turn, and twist all around Bob. The detective to whom the robbery was reported (because another employee was hurt badly enough to need an ambulance) keeps hanging around and asking Bob pushy questions. Though the Chechens find (and murder) one of the thieves and recover their money, the police interference has irritated them. They send Marv and Bob the message by returning the money to the bar (so Marv and Bob can deliver it “properly”) in a trash bag along with the arm of the thief still wearing his broken watch. And, perhaps worst of all for Bob, Nadia’s ex-boyfriend reappears.
Schoenaerts plays Eric, Nadia’s ex and a dangerously disturbed man. He’s just been released from an asylum where he was involuntarily committed for violent psychopathy. The dog in the trash was his; apparently this was how he wanted to tell Nadia he was going to be back in her life. Now, he wants the dog back, Nadia back, and Bob gone. The word is, he’s killed before and, if pushed, will again.
There are a few more twists and turns, but I don’t want to spoil too much. Suffice it to say, with each further complication, Bob gets more and more hemmed in. He is being forced into a corner, and whether he will be able to get out of it seems uncertain. Even more so, will he be able to escape unscathed? And what will happen to his dog (which he names Rocco, after a saint)? What will happen to Nadia? What will happen to Marv and the bar? Menace approaches from all directions as different people in his life pose threats in different ways to different aspects of his life.
Perhaps the resolution won’t surprise you. It certainly surprised me. I’m not sure I ultimately agree with what I understand the thrust of the movie to be, but it’s without question an engaging meditation on the propensity of man to do evil and the desire for forgiveness and redemption. It’s a good film with good performances by a variety of actors, some better known than others. I guess at the end of the day, even if one doesn’t like the conclusion, the question is still one worth pondering and the story is an excellent attempt at working out an answer.