‘The Drop’ drops the ball

James Gandolfini passed away last year tragically, and the world lost a wonderful and passionate actor. His final performance is in the crime thriller “The Drop,” directed by Michaël R. Roskam. The film is a reminder of how greatly capable he was and how the world was robbed of an amazingly talented actor with his death. “The Drop” succeeds at the performance level but falls short at providing the gripping crime thriller it sets out to create, neglecting a solid script and clear direction. This flaw is common in performance-oriented films: the actors all do really well, but everyone else around them fails to live up to the talent they’re filming.

“The Drop” is an actors’ movie at its core. It is very small in scale and story, focusing on a “drop bar,” a random bar that is chosen each night to launder money for the mob. Gandolfini plays the bar’s “owner,” Marv, which is really controlled by the mob. The real focus of the story though is the bartender, Bob, played by Tom Hardy. Bob is awkward, unassuming, but caring. He becomes friendly with one of his neighbors, Nadia, played by Noomi Rapace, after finding a beat-up dog for which they both agree to care. I was particularly impressed with the performances of Hardy and Gandolfini, who have great chemistry as a crime duo, and I was surprised how well the dynamic developed throughout the film. The film brings attention to the small things through subtle dialogue that could have only been delivered well by talented actors, teasing the audience and keeping them guessing who or what will be relevant later in the film.

Marv decides to take advantage of the mob’s decision to make a drop at his bar by staging a robbery: if the mob reacts well, they can start hitting other drop bars and steal even more. The mob starts asking for their money back, and things intensify further when the former owner of Bob’s dog starts asking for his dog back. Turns out this guy, Eric Reeds, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, is a known gangster and claims to be responsible for the murder of a local. He was also romantically involved with Nadia, which causes the web of organized crime to become more intricate. The staged robbery also attracts the attention of Detective Torres, played by John Ortiz, who is highly suspicious of the circumstances surrounding it, but the boys decide to play it cool because as far as he’s concerned, the bar just got robbed. It’s a decent set up with enough drama to keep your attention, but there’s this forced air of mystery developed through Torres’s investigation surrounding everything that felt unnecessary.

The stellar acting performances fall flat with stale dialogue. The screenplay was trying to hide meaning behind every line but it was so obvious what was important and what wasn’t. There was nothing keeping me on the edge of my seat guessing what would happen next. My internal dialogue resembled “oh that guy complimented his dog seemingly out of nowhere, that guy is obviously going to be important later.” That guy turned out to be Eric Reeds, the main antagonist. I can’t tell if this was intended to be figured out immediately or an “aha” moment for the audience, but for me it just felt forced. There are several moments in the film similar to this exchange, all equally predictable. There was this feeling like a twist coming but no clear question in my mind as to what was exactly going to be revealed, so when the climax came it had very little impact.

“The Drop” was interesting in what it attempted to do with a deliberately paced crime thriller, but there’s not a lot to return to. I don’t see myself watching this again but I was entertained for its relatively short 106 minute runtime. It’s a decent crime thriller like any other that comes out every year, with very little to distinguish it as unique in its own genre. The crimes weren’t very thrilling, and the mystery surrounding the circumstances failed to engross me. A mediocre screenplay kept alive by great actors makes for an enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable experience.