Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Drop (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Drop

Belgian director Michaël R. Roskam master of the shockingly visceral "Bullhead" that dealt with paranoia in the butcher and beef industry, now tries his hand at a mainstream urban crime drama.

 "The Drop" highlights the sneaky business of a Brooklyn bar-owning family.

Dramatic heavy Tom Hardy stars as Bob, a well meaning, sad faced and laconic bartender who merely wants to survive amid the dark subterranean environment of a walnut paneled bar that is as confined as a submarine. Day after day, smoky and prune-mapped faces accost him in want and greed.

He struggles to keep his unassuming  head upright, in treating both gangster and average guy with some equality.

The bar, "Cousin Marv's" is the occasional location for a "drop", that is, a holding place for protection money or questionable cash that the mafia collects.

One night,  two masked men crack into the bar as Bob closes up.

Fear ensues.

The next night, Bob hears an animal noise coming from the trash. A bull terrier puppy is inside, as adorable as can be, but gorily beaten.

Are the two incidents related?

Bob doesn't know, but he is smitten with the puppy and discovers a skittish but helpful novice vet, Nadia (Noomi Rapace)

Bob resolves not to lose the dog which he names Rocco.

The following day, the patriarch, Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini, in his final outing) gives Bob argumentative business over his forthcoming behavior with investigators. Marv is a former thug and loan shark, now gone squinty and diminished in importance.

More alarmingly, Bob is hounded by a loping yet intense man, the volatile Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts). And just to make everything extra icy, the bar is badgered by Chechen gangsters who want their money returned.

This story is clearly in the mode of other films like "The Town" and "Gone Baby Gone" with stock character roles that don't reach out of their gritty orange gray zones. Both Gandolfini and Schoenaerts are somewhat scary bruisers throughout. Schoenaerts reprises his hard and silent persona established in "Rust and Bone" and the previously mentioned "Bullhead" while Hardy gives his best Brandoesque version of Terry from "On the Waterfront".

Gandolfini too, retains the  clipped and punchy repartee from "The Sopranos", although his Marv is more melancholy and pensive than threatening.

But though it may wear some easily  recognizable cement shoes, "The Drop" holds fast to some steely apprehension and nervousness, largely due to the blank docility of Bob and his desire for a more civil world. His inner tension combined with an outer facade of gentle passivity makes Bob a human twin to the puppy he yearns to shelter from harm.

The dog itself is a voluptuously hopeful gray ribbon that pulls Bob's dream of security closer together tethering Nadia to his hip.

Schoenaerts is riveting once more as a blandly nonchalant, yet toxically intent drifter who simply takes up space.

"The Drop" has plenty of the mealy hard bitten seediness we expect coupled with wincing faces in pain, shock and other pulpy emotions.

Yet it is Roskam's trademark circular claustrophobia that makes this a fine film to mark.

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