Thus far, this year’s best drama – by far- has been the hypnotic, British import Locke. It features Tom Hardy, the same actor who heads the fine cast of this no-nonsense examination of working class criminal lowlifes in one of Brooklyn’s many blue collar enclaves. To see this 37-year-old actor in a pair of exceptional dramas within a 6 month period is almost as surprising as the fact that he’s been at work for over a decade in more than 3 dozen films, many of which have drawn large U.S. audiences. Who is this guy and why hasn’t he caught the attention of American audiences before now?
Award-winning writer Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone BabyGone, Shutter Island) adapted the screenplay of this film from “Animal Rescue”, a short story he penned some years ago.
He often humanizes rough-edged characters by showing their concern for domestic pets and he does so again here as he teases out a small tale of life on the fringes of the mob, which uses a neighborhood bar operated by Marv (James Gandolfini) as a “drop”--a collection point for the proceeds of various illegal activities sanctioned by one of NYC’s organized crime families. Bob Saginowski (Hardy) tends bar for Marv and dutifully looks the other way as his boss tries to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the bar’s operation without attracting the attention of his bosses.
But Bob’s life grows exponentially more complicated when he rescues a badly abused pit bull puppy from the garbage can of a young woman named Nadia, played by Noomi Rapace. She’s trying to regain control over her life after a failed relationship with Fitz, a local thug reputed to have engineered the disappearance and apparent murder of a rival. When Bob saves her puppy and begins to defend Nadia from a revival of Fitz’s unwanted attentions, Bob finds his personal life skidding dangerously close to a collision with his role as a participant in the mob’s collection activities. Can competing loyalties and the reliability of long-standing relationships produce violent cross-purposes?
Rapace had the starring role in Sweden’s version of “The “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” trilogy and she’s haunting here as an outwardly tough woman secretly at war with demons of her own making. Gandolfini’s last role doesn’t bring new facets of his extraordinary screen presence to light, but he’s spot-on as a once feared local gangster whose powers of intimidation are far behind him. But The Drop is Hardy’s film from the outset as he fashions his character from the outside in, slowly revealing hidden dimensions in a man apparently at the mercy of those interested in manipulating him for their own purposes. It’s Hardy’s ability to blend vulnerability and steely determination with an almost child-like simplicity that makes his character so attractive on the one hand…and so frightening on the other. Lehane crafts good/bad guys with the best of crime writers and Hardy brings one of this celebrated author’s most complex creations vividly to life.
Modest in budget, sparse in dialogue and rich in its painstaking attention to the details of urban working class life, The Drop is a gem from it’s almost somnambulant beginning to its explosive end.
The Verdict? One of the best crime dramas of recent memory.
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