‘Drop’ an uneven dose of postsummer noir 

click to enlarge The Drop
  • Tom Hardy is excellent as a bartender in working-class Brooklyn in “The Drop.”
Wounded puppies of several sorts populate “The Drop,” a hard-boiled crime thriller entwined with a gentle romantic drama. Directorial verve and a vital cast supply suspense and character but can’t quite counterbalance a need for more originality and depth.

Part “Rocky,” part “On the Waterfront,” and part image boost for the pit-bull breed, the film is directed by Michael R. Roskam, who made “Bullhead,” the Belgian stunner set in the illegal beef-hormone market. Again, Roskam gives us mobsters, male brutality, trauma and a good-hearted, circumstance-hardened protagonist. Novelist Dennis Lehane wrote the screenplay, shifting his usual Boston setting to working-class Brooklyn.

In a neighborhood where scary men skulk and inflections suggest an invasion of European actors, Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) says little but sees lots while tending bar at a watering hole that serves as a dirty-money organized-crime “drop.” The bar used to belong to Bob’s cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), who once enjoyed respect among locals but now answers to Chechen crime bosses. Injured pride has led Marv to act desperately.

Two incidents enliven the passive Bob.

First, the bar gets robbed, and he and Marv are expected to come up with the stolen $5,000. A suspicious cop (John Ortiz) increases anxiety.

Then, Bob discovers an abused pit-bull puppy in a neighbor’s trash. He bonds with the dog and the scared-looking neighbor, Nadia (Noomi Rapace).

Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts, from “Bullhead”), the pup’s former owner and Nadia’s ex-boyfriend, arrives. A brutal thug, Deeds wants both the dog and Nadia back.

To his credit, Roskam delivers more than just the good, the bad and the puppy as he advances the plot toward its Super Bowl Sunday climax. He reveals secrets with dramatic efficiency. And while he may indeed provide a severed arm or a bloody showdown, he’s not on genre autopilot. As in “Bullhead,” he has something to say about the dangers of remaining stuck in the past.

Yet there are frustrations. Lehane, expanding his short story “Animal Rescue,” seems to be overstretching a thin plot. The film lacks the texture of other Lehane-based works such as “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” and the talented Rapace is wasted in the role of a love interest in danger.

The men, however, shine. Hardy makes Bob a gripping combination of vulnerability and potential menace, and Gandolfini, in his final role, delivers another vivid gangster portrait.

As for the puppy, yes, he’s a device to tie things together and symbolize, as an unfairly maligned breed, the significance of nurture. But Roskam and company kind of pull it off.


The Drop

Starring Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts

Written by Dennis Lehane

Directed by Michael R. Roskam

Rated R

Running time 1 hour, 47 minutes

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Anita Katz

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