By Muhammad MuzammalCOLUMNIST
Played with a quiet, boiling intensity by Tom Hardy, in Michael R. Roskam’s, “The Drop,” Bob Saginowski first appears as a gentle giant, whose life’s biggest challenge lies in taking care of a bulldog puppy that he finds beaten and bleeding in a garbage can. As the film progresses, we see that he isn’t as nice as he seems and a darker, more methodical side resides within him.
With a heavy Brooklyn accent and an ape-like walk, Hardy controls each scene he’s in. The role requires him to be both fearsome and feared. Watch how he acts whenever he is questioned by the suspicious Detective Torres (John Ortiz): calm, collected and naive. Next, notice the final confrontation he has with one of the film’s one-dimensional villains, Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) and how he asserts control over the conversation with his voice and straight face.
His tense performance compliments the whole film, which is a thrilling exercise in the genre of its screenwriter, Dennis Lehane, whose story credits include “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone.” These are two films that also show characters struggling to maintain a sense of morality in a corrupt world.
“The Drop” isn’t as compelling as those titles, especially with its simplistic antagonists and criminally underused actors–Ann Dowd is on-screen in a minor role for only 5-6 minutes.
Saginowski tends bar for his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini in his final role), the previous owner of the bar. The drinking establishment is used for money laundering and on the night of the cash transfer, the date is deemed as the “drop date.” One night, before a scheduled drop the place is robbed. This leads Saginowski down an intricate web of events, which unravels layers of his true character.
Saginowski befriends Nadia (the beautiful Noomi Rapace), the abused ex-girlfriend of Deeds. We find that Deeds is an ex-convict who also spent a month in a mental asylum. He’s the one responsible for manhandling the puppy that Saginowski finds, and eventually, Deeds targets him for extortion.
Deeds is not complex. He’s given little weight by the movie’s climactic ending, but his mental condition is used more as a cheat rather than a character trait.
Gandolfini plays Marv like a low-level Tony Soprano, an authoritative figure who is alone and empty in a bloodless world. But not all is light-hearted between Marv and Saginowski, and even with their comedic exchanges throughout the film, they have a falling out near the end.
Rapace takes the most vulnerable and emotional role in the movie. As Nadia, she plays a victim of abuse well: alert, always on her feet and never too comfortable. But she is let down by the film’s ending which simplifies her character to a convenient pick up for Saginowski, as opposed to her finding her own way out of the mess.
In the end, this is Hardy’s film and it gives the actor the meaty role that’s been long overdue. He carries character elements from previous roles into “The Drop” and goes further, creating a character that isn’t as overdone as the film is in its own genre of crime dramas. In the end, it’s a stroke of small brilliance for Hardy.