The current state of popular culture has me bummed, and not above whining about it. Imagine my elation when I finally got around to watching The Drop last week, a film that combines 21st Century production values with 70s movie sensibilities.
Anything Dennis Lehane is associated with gets my attention, and I’d been aware of The Drop since the book released last fall. (An unorthodox road led to Lehane being asked to write a screenplay based on his short story, “Animal Rescue,” which he concurrently turned into a short novel to be released around the time of the movie’s premiere.) The book went with me to NoirCon and almost led me to miss a night at the bar. A great place to start for someone who is not yet a Lehane initiate. (Though why anyone is not yet a Lehane initiate is beyond me, unless they read Moonlight Mile first.)
The movie captures the feel of the book perfectly. This may not be too much of a surprise,as the novel is, essentially, the screenplay, but we’ve all seen directors who get on the set and find their Muse has spent too much time in the sun, or got hold of some bad acid and bollocksed it altogether. It’s moody without laying it on, as director Michaël R. Roskam steps back and lets his actors and material rule the day, to great effect. (Though why they moved the story from Boston to New York is beyond me.)
The casting is perfect. Tom Hardy is the Liam Neeson of his generation, playing Bob as someone easy to underestimate. (Is he slow, or playing at it?) James Gandolfini’s Cousin Marv is where Tony Soprano could easily have wound up without some luck and smarts. Noomi Rapace is attractive in a damaged, girl you might see in a working-class bar way, not at all like a movie star. Matthias Schoenaerts plays Eric Deeds as a psycho who exhibits his imbalance through understated menace.
Understated. That’s the key work that sums up why The Drop is so good. No explosions. No chases. Just a story about people in difficult situations not always of their choosing, making borderline—and sometimes bad—decisions. Nothing in it feels made up, and everything in it makes perfect sense in retrospect. Everything you need to know to figure the final twist is there. Americans seems to make fewer of this kind of movie every year. (Of course, director Roskam is Belgian.) Let’s hope The Drop isn’t too much of an isolated incident.