As the holiday video gifts of December transition into January, we get the occasional underrated film before February's release of films aspiring for any award possible. And with The Drop, we experience a film that came and went perhaps a little too quickly, also was perhaps noted for something out of its control. Yet on its merits, the film deserves a place in (or just outside of) critics' lists for best films of 2014.
Dennis Lehane (Gone Baby Gone) adapted his short story into a screenplay that Michaël Roskam directed in his follow-up to Bullhead. Bob (Tom Hardy, Locke) tends bar in Brooklyn with and for the bar's namesake, Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini, Enough Said). Bob generally keeps to himself and is quite the solopsist. On his walk home one night, he finds a pit bull puppy abandoned in a trash can, and with the help of Nadya (Noomi Rapace, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), whose trashcan the puppy was found in, they clean him up and Bob takes the dog in, and strikes up a friendship with Nadia, despite the peripheral watch of Nadia's ex-boyfriend Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts, Rust and Bone). One night, Bob and Marv are robbed at the bar, which is of particular concern as the bar is called a ‘drop bar,' a receiving area of sorts for money from various criminals and less than legal businessmen. The money goes to Russian mobsters who not only want their money back, but in an unrelated moment decide the bar should be the drop bar for the Super Bowl. Bob and Marv have to make decisions that impact their lives and their partnerships with the mobsters.
Oddly enough, to suggest that the bar being robbed, or even the potential of being robbed, is secondary to the events that unfold in The Drop, and as a result the film immediately becomes a deeper tale of family, loyalty and relationships, be it maintaining existing ones or developing new ones, such as between Bob and Nadia. The puppy is a surrogate of sorts that helps Bob open up to people and express his feelings to and about them more. Hardy's performance as Bob I find could be a bit polarizing with repeated viewings. At first, it might be easy to dismiss it as mumbling with a Noo Yawk accent (especially during scenes with Schoenaerts when it sounds awfully similar and overdone), but I think at further reflection it is less about the environment and more about the person, and I think Hardy quietly nails it with Bob.
For that matter, the whole cast avails themselves well. Speaking of Schoenaerts, seeing him continue to emerge as a solid acting presence from his debut (oddly enough in Bullhead) as Eric is a fun performance to watch, just as Rapace's as Nadia. And for Gandolfini's last film role, Marv is a guy who tries to reclaim past glory but does not seem to get the final notes right, and he is aware of how it plays out. Rounding out an excellent ensemble is John Ortiz (Jack Goes Boating) playing the investigating detective and mutual churchgoer with Bob, and Anne Dowd (Compliance), playing Marv's sister. Each has their own moments onscreen and do with those moments what you would expect.
Roskam lets Lehane's dialogue do the work, but adds in visual touches that blend modern aesthetics with a story so set in New York it could be a kinder, gentler Lumet film of sorts. He manages to push the character evolution and heist storylines ably and with little concern, and he also gets welcome moments from his actors, in a film that feels authentic. What happens at the end of The Drop is surprising to a degree, but also feels earned and that is a testament to the production.
Having seen a plethora of movies both in theaters and on video the last several months, I feel that I can say that The Drop may be one of the better films of 2014, with performances up and down the cast which are good, in a story that deserves to be seen and seen again. Roskam's American directing debut is a solid one, and his visual acumen is impressive for such a short resume.The Blu-ray:
The AVC encode that graces the 2.40:1 widescreen transfer of The Drop looks excellent on Blu-ray from Fox. Image detail is sharp as a tack throughout the film, where it is the hairs in Gandolfini's beard or textures of the bar counter or drop envelopes during Super Bowl Sunday. The bar lighting is vivid and not saturated for any noticeable moment. And in Bob's jacket or Marv's New York Jets warm-up jacket, colors are appropriately faded to show wear and tear. Flesh tones are natural and there was no DNR to speak of. All told, a superb transfer from Fox.The Sound:
The DTS HD-MA 5.1 surround track delivers the goods almost as much as the transfer does. Dialogue is consistent through the listening experience, and directional effects, which a tad sparse, are effective when present, and the immersion is also effective when present, such as the Super Bowl party at the bar. Channel panning is non-existent but the subwoofer does get the chance to fire off on sharp sounds like a gun going off or in the low rumble of a car engine, picking up the slack when called upon. One gets the sense when watching the film that there is a technical beast here when given the chance, but it is held in effective control during viewing and listening.Extras:
Roskam and Lehane team up for a commentary that is not bad. The main thing I got from the tone of the track is that there are two guys, both of whom have a fondness for the story and the characters, and they talk about the film well. The visual intent of the film is summed up nicely by Roskam, who wondered ‘how would Frank Capra do Taxi Driver?' as inspiration, and Lehane brings up Carlito's Way in an unrelated moment. They discuss omissions from the book and deleted scenes from the film, and have the requisite raving of scenes or moments, including one where the dog snored his way through a key third act scene, the audio of which is shamefully not included as an extra. It is a really nice track. Next up are four deleted scenes (6:22) which include optional commentary and are nice scenes. Five featurettes follow, starting with "Keeping It Real" (3:54), which looks at how the story turned into the film, and thoughts on it. "Making of The Drop" (3:45) is self-explanatory, while "Making Brooklyn Your Own" (4:00) looks at bringing the Boston-centric story to New York and the cast's thoughts on same. "Rocco the Dog" (2:21) looks at the meaning of and impact to the movie with the puppy, while "Character Profile: James Gandolfini" (2:11) is a near-remembrance of the actor. A stills gallery and trailer (2:23) complete things, along with an Ultraviolet code.Final Thoughts:
The Drop is an impressive character drama set against an authentic feeling New York backdrop, featuring an impressive ensemble turning in equally impressive work. It is fascinating to watch the characters evolve as they do in this story. Technically, Fox has delivered adeptly with the transfer and lossless track. From an extras perspective the commentary itself is just as good, and worth experiencing after the film. Carve the time out to savor this one.