The Drop

Movie Review #877

“THE DROP” IS SOLID, WELL-ACTED, ENTERTAINING.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

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Released September 12, 2014 (nationwide)
Crime, Drama
Rated R (contains graphic violence, frequent profanity)
106 minutes

“You woke up this morning
Got yourself a gun,
Mama always said you’d be
The Chosen One.”
– Alabama 3, “Woke Up This Morning” (Theme Song from The Sopranos)

Possibly the most satisfying thing about “The Drop” is that its title does not indicate anything about the quality of the film. This is the fourth adaptation from work by crime author Dennis Lehane, following in the clever footsteps of “Mystic River” (2003), “Gone Baby Gone” (2007), and “Shutter Island” (2010). I have yet to see “River”, but “Gone” and “Island” both earned the equivalent of three stars on my current grading scale. I liked them substantially, but I hardly consider either of them classics. “The Drop” meets precisely the same fate. It’s an enjoyable time at the movies, no doubt. (And no doubt Lehane is just a three-star kinda guy.)

What sets “The Drop” apart from other Lehane films is that it’s got more of a Lehanean mark on it. The author has had considerable experience penning teleplays for The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, both for HBO; he knows the nature of a hardboiled crime drama both on screen and on paper. It’s quite evident in his screenplay for “The Drop”. In a crime movie kind of way, the movie’s pretty. It’s witty. It’s bright. It’s seriocomic. Short, sweet. And it’s violent, but it’s unmistakably lighthearted in that field.

Lehane’s script is itself an adaptation of his own short story “Animal Rescue” penned and pressed in 2009. Fittingly, the movie plays out just as if it were a short story, and at the same time, it benefits from the additional back story it offers.

The real standout here, though, isn’t Lehane. It’s not the guy who’s writing it all, but the guy who delivers each and every line like he’s rewritten it off the cuff: the late James Gandolfini. Gandolfini doesn’t demonstrate the premeditation of a screenwriter in his greatest lines (or in any of them). His greatest lines are better than ever because they happen ever so naturally. Gandolfini even takes on a bit of Jack Nicholson appeal, appearing as if the twin brother to Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) from “The Departed”.

There’s no denying that “The Drop” is as appropriate a swan song for Gandolfini as any. No doubt we acknowledge him for his small roles in “True Romance”, etc., but we associate Gandolfini quicker than instantly with his role on HBO’s The Sopranos. He’s basically playing Tony Soprano in “The Drop”. He’s got every bit of personality, charm, and slyness that Tony had for six seasons. The major difference being that in “The Drop”, Gandolfini ain’t a gangster no longer. A guy who works at his bar has connections with the mob (and even he isn’t a mobster, so to speak). Gandolfini’s a good guy, and a bad guy, as is suggested for most every significant character in most every Lehane tale. He gets tangled up in situations he’d much rather avoid, and he’s not exactly sure how to handle some of these situations.

“The Drop” features one of the most effective twist endings in a long time. I didn’t see it coming until it happened. At the same time, it worked. Loose ends came together and the story remained logical. Beyond that, I’ll keep you surprised. “The Drop” is a decent movie. It’s highlighted with great performances. It’s not just Gandolfini. Tom Hardy dissolves into his New Yorker accent as if he were from the region. (And he’s from West London!) Paired with him is actress Noomi Rapace. This is Rapace’s seventh film after her starring role in the foreign adaptation Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy. Seemingly, this her best performance since.

The two together are a palatable screen couple, but their typical side-story romance overdevelops into boring filler material. Contrast with the rest of the movie, which wittily confronts its conventions without a care of how many times we think we’ve seen the story. Granted, we have seen the story. “The Drop” offers some newness. It doesn’t set out to become a classic. It’s not hot off the stove, but it’s warm enough to enjoy for about two hours.

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