With every movie he does, Tom Hardy keeps showing just how dang good he is. Who else could have pulled off Locke?(A movie in which his character was the only one you saw and spent the entire movie making phone calls while driving on a freeway.) And I'm still in awe of his performance in Bronson and that was 2008. Sure, The Drop will probably be lauded as the late James Gandolfini's last role and while the actor does a fantastic job, it seems like even he knew to take a step back and let Hardy do his thing.
Set in a cold, desperate Brooklyn (which is as much of a character as anyone else), this contemplative film about bruised masculinity follows Bob (Hardy), the shuffling younger cousin of bar-owner Marv (Gandolfini). The bar (aptly named Cousin Marv's) isn't really owned by Marv anymore since it's a drop bar used by Chechen baddies, which poses a slew of emotional issues for Marv. When the bar is robbed one night, the cousins find themselves in some trouble because not only do they have to come up with the mobster's stolen cash, Bob also let some choice information slip to a prying detective (John Ortiz) who won't let matters drop.
Directed by Belgium’s Michael R. Roskam and written by Dennis Lehane (who also wrote the short story on which it is based, the script is so tightly woven, yet so incredibly simple. Of course, it will be impossible to watch the film without the loss of Gandolfini on your mind, which makes his character all the more poignant. When you see Marv's identity crumble, you really feel the loss of a great actor.
That said, it's Bob that drives the narrative. He doesn't speak much but when he does, it really means something, and little by little the viewer is able to construct a back story that is both touching and terrifying. Tom Hardy explained to Rolling Stone that he used Ted Bundy and Of Mice and Men's Lenny as inspiration, wanting to get across the character's deep-rooted loneliness and desperation to belong. "I understood that Bob had a small racketeering thing going with a gang in the past, he'd been involved with some shady types and participated in stuff he wasn't really proud of," says Hardy. "But then I started to think—maybe this guy is a serial killer? Maybe he's an alpha predator disguised as someone harmless. Those are the ones you have to look out for, man. You see someone sitting in the corner with glasses and a book, and then it turns out he's a Mossad agent and can kill you with a spoon."
It's not until Bob comes across a beaten, abandoned pit bull puppy in a trash can that he starts to rediscover his lost humanity. He also begins a timid friendship with the wary Nadia (Noomi Rapace), the woman who's house the puppy was thrown away in front of. Watching him learn how to care for a dog, while also learning how to be someone's friend, is endearing and a little heartbreaking.
Sure, the gritty film isn't perfect and some characters aren't given much room to grow, but it's all about Bob anyway. With everything leading up to a climax that's surprising, brutal, quick, and somehow sweet (leave it to Hardy to make that work), The Drop makes you expect the worst of people while still hoping deep down for the best.