The voice is a little high, a little nasal, a lot Brooklyn. At the start of The Drop, we get an explanation of what a drop bar is (no, not the handlebars on a road bike): “Money changes hands all night,” and the illicit cash – from dealers, from pimps, from who-knows-whom – has to be deposited someplace. Certainly not a bank.
The bars change week to week, the bulging envelopes swept into a secret slot, a hidden safe, by the barkeep on duty – a swift stealth maneuver before he returns to serving his regulars their drafts, their shots.
The fact that Bob, the watchful barman in question, is played by Tom Hardy, takes a few minutes to register: This is not the voice of a Brit, not the muffled roar of the Dark Knight’s nemesis, Bane. But the actor finds his way into this tricky character, with his tricky backstory. Then along comes Noomi Rapace, the Swede with the dragon tattoo, and she’s talkin’ and squawkin’ Brooklynese, too. Actors – that’s what they do.
A tense, evocative neo-noir, expanded from Dennis Lehane’s short story “Animal Rescue” and transported from Boston to the New York borough, The Drop is a slow-burning crime caper, but it’s a love story, too: The soft-spoken Bob, who lives alone, finds a pit bull puppy in a trash can in front of a house; he meets Nadia (Rapace), a waitress who happens to be the owner of said trash can, and the relationship goes from there. He takes the dog, she takes care of it sometimes, eventually the two go on something like a date.
Back at Cousin Marv’s, where Bob has long been in employ, two masked gunmen rob the place just after closing, on a night when the local bosses have designated it a money drop. How’d these guys know? Who are they?
James Gandolfini – in a swan-song performance that’s definitely in Tony Soprano’s wheelhouse – is Cousin Marv, but he sold his saloon to a Chechen gang, whose twitchy ringleader, Chovka (Michael Aronov), is not pleased to hear about the heist. He wants revenge. He wants his money back.
And there’s this Eddie Deeds fellow (Rust & Bone’s Matthias Schoenaerts – another foreigner pretending to be from Flatbush). Eddie has some history with Marv, with Nadia, and even with Bob’s new pooch.
There’s an undercurrent of dread running through The Drop. Lehane’s screenplay takes its time, but it’s time not wasted, and director Michaël R. Roskam (the Oscar-nominated Bullhead) finds a place somewhere between dark humor and moody doom. In the end, this tale of lonely souls and soulless thugs – of money and morality – even feels kind of hopeful.
Hopeful with a Brooklyn accent.