Friday, September 12, 2014

The Drop [2014]

MPAA (R)  Chicago Tribune (2 1/2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

The Drop [2014] (directed by Michaël R. Roskam, screenplay by Dennis Lehane based on an earlier short story of his) is IMHO an excellent, well written / well acted, starting out low key but steadily building (until an inevitable climax) crime drama set around a neighborhood bar in Brooklyn, New York.

The central (certainly at least partly "mythic") device around which the story is built is that of "The Drop" (which, of course, is the film's title). We're told in a voice-over by "Bob" the film's central protagonist / seeming "mild-mannered everyman" bartender (played with near perfectly calibrated precision throughout the whole of the film by Tom Hardy) at a neighborhood tavern nominally owned by his once (and still?) ambitious older cousin Marv (played by James Gandolfini) that:

"(In Brooklyn) every night, a lot of money changes hands, the kind of money that can't be reported but must go somewhere, and where it goes is to a 'Drop Bar,'"

The Drop Bar is where the neighborhood's questionably acquired money is collected, stored and eventually picked up the neighborhood's (mob) powers-that-be.  We're also told that "the drop" location changes from night to night.  So no bar would always be "the drop bar" but once one's bar becomes designated as such (presumably without the bar's owner necessarily even knowing about his/her establishment's designation beforehand) the bar owner would DEFINITELY MAKE SURE THAT THE "DROPPED" MONEY WAS "KEPT SAFE" for "pick-up" by the local mob's representative later on.  And, of course, it goes without saying that the money had better "all be there" when the mob's rep comes calling.

Well, early in the story, Bob's tending bar at his cousin Marv's place and the bar gets "hit" by two masked, somewhat amateurish, thugs on exactly the night that the bar was the neighborhood's "drop bar."  Marv even asks them: "Do you know what you're doing?  Do you know whose money you're stealing?"  They don't seem to care.  Not wanting to die for other people's money, Marv hands over to them the "evening's drop."

Okay ... but neither NYPD who Marv has to call to report the robbery (after-all the robbery was nominally witnessed by numerous bar patrons) nor the Chechen immigrant gangsters who actually run the neighborhood believe that the robbery was an accident.  When NYPD Detective Torres (played by John Ortiz) comes by to take statements, none of the "witnesses" except actually Bob "saw anything."  Yes, there they all saw a robbery take place, but NONE except Bob could offer ANYTHING descriptive of the perpetrators.  And actually, all that Bob notes to the detective was that ONE of the two assailants wore a watch that apparently didn't work.  He tells the detective that "his watch was stuck at 6:15."  That little detail would seem utterly trivial, but his older cousin Marv was irritated that Bob told the detective anything at all.  When Mob collector Chovka (played by Michael Aronov) comes by the next day, watch-or-no-watch, robbery-or-no-robbery, he tells Marv (and Bob standing by) simply that they owe the mob the $5,000 lost in the drop.

... a few days later the $5,000 shows up, along with the broken watch, and ... bit more than just said broken watch ... all nicely packed ... in a blood soaked bag.  A "crime" was "solved," "justice" was (almost to the letter) "restored" BUT ... what the heck happened?

These are the questions that fly-out-at those living in the neighborhood, but NO ONE in his / her right mind would want to publicly ask them (even in a whisper) ... TO ANYONE.

Now it turns out that there's SOMEONE in the neighborhood who's NOTORIOUSLY NOT "IN HIS RIGHT MIND" ... An Eric Deeds (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) KNOWN to have been institutionalized in a psycho-ward for a period of time "in his youth" AND WHISPERED ABOUT as the probable perpetrator of a NOTORIOUS "UNSOLVED" MURDER of another wayward youth some years back.  Did he do it?  Everybody thought he did.  BUT NOBODY WANTED TO TALK ABOUT IT BECAUSE IT SEEMED AGAIN POSSIBLY "MOB CONNECTED" AND THEY WERE SCARED OF HIM.

For his part, Deeds DIDN'T MIND HIS SCARY REPUTATION and spends much of the film terrorizing the people in the neighborhood that he wanted to terrorize, notably an "ex-girlfriend" named Nadia (played by Noomi Rapace) and later Bob.  Bob actually "meets" (starts talking to / befriending) Nadia when one evening coming home from work he hears a puppy whimpering inside a garbage can outside Nadia's house.  Apparently to terrorize both the puppy ... and Nadia..., Deeds had bashed the puppies head with something and then had left it, whimpering, in her trash can for her to find.  Why would he do that?  WELL, BECAUSE HE'S A PSYCHO who ENJOYS inflicting pain on the weak and terrorizing them.  Then when Deeds starts seeing Bob, Nadia, and the brought-to-better-health puppy (a baby pit-bull actually) together, he actually decides to EXTORT BOB telling him to give him $10,000 or he'd "capture the dog one day" and kill him (the dog, that is ... but ... ...).

WELL all comes to a head, when "Superbowl Sunday" (the "ugliness" of the previously missing $5000 at Marv's place having been "satisfactorily" resolved) the Chechens having designated Marv's place to be THE PERFECT PLACE FOR "THE DROP" ON THE BIGGEST (CASH) NIGHT OF THEIR YEAR (they'd presumably be REALLY CAREFUL WITH THE MONEY...), Deeds comes to the bar, with Nadia all dolled up "as his date", Marv's not around, asking Bob for the $10,000 (to "leave the dog alone...") and THEN ... Deeds stays around apparently with the intention of holding-up the place for the rest (the Mob's "drop").

At this point, if you were "Bob" what would you do? 

I found the film very well crafted and very well acted.  I _hope_ that its portrayal of "neighborhood life" was _exaggerated_ at least somewhat "for dramatic effect" as there are any number of establishments in my own neighborhood where I currently serve that could very well have been the bar portrayed in this film ;-). 

Indeed, the Church does have a role in the story.  Its role is not an overpowering one _but it is there_ and its role is not a bad one.  It is there for those who would but notice it / come to realize that they need it.

Very good film!

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1 comment:

  1. It was a wonderful film. After a long summer of movies intended for children and teenagers, thank goodness there was something finally coming out of the pipeline for adults. Yes, The Drop is well-written and acted as you say. Allow me a couple of very brief comments, please.

    Tom Hardy’s “Bob” is an extraordinarily crafted character, but you don’t see it right away. Indeed, he looks vulnerable, and he is truly peace-loving. Detective Torres, beautifully portrayed by John Ortiz, pays close attention to nuance, and he gradually comes to terms with the not-so-obvious. It starts with an interesting observation. It turns out that Torres attends the same early-morning Mass as Bob, but he notices that Bob consistently abstains from receiving the Sacrament. You ultimately find out why.

    This film hits you with twice the power after you’ve seen it. It’s almost impossible to discern how this perfect Dennis Lehane screenplay is coming across and playing with the viewer. It’s like taking a powerful, centrally-acting medication that doesn’t kick in for hours later.

    “Nobody sees you coming, do they Bob?,” asks Torres at the end. What a beautiful ribbon and bow to put on this lovely gift to movie goers. It’s enough to chill your spine.

    As an addendum, a guilty pleasure for me is seeing the great James Gandolfini in one last role, one that required a good measure of “Tony Soprano” to make this story work. My Jim rest in Peace.