DIR: Michaël R. Roskam • WRI: Dennis Lehane • PRO: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Mike Larocca • DOP: Nicolas Karakatsanis • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Thérèse DePrez • MUS: Marco Beltrami, Raf Keunen • CAST: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Elizabeth Rodriguez, James Gandolfini
A screen flickers to life with nothing on the soundtrack but the sickly drip of water and the buzz of urban indifference to adorn the faded in shot of an alley we’d rather not be in. Various silhouetted figures stumble through the cold, bundled up well and breathing intermittently, their foggy discharges adding to the impending sense of dampness filling the screening room. One figure halts, disturbed into curiosity by a noise they’ve heard in a nearby bin. They investigate. They always investigate. Welcome to (Dennis) Lehane-ville, home of blue-collar noir for the 21st century.
There is no genre so much as noir that one may develop a story in provided a few dynamics are in place, regardless of era or location. Noir films tend to be set in worlds a few streets wide where nobody aids police investigations and nobody has nothing to worry about. They tend to progress towards revealing a series of murky secrets and so it is appropriate as a viewer to trust no one. They will eventually pit you as the star prize in a cock fight between two devils, one you’ll know and one you won’t. There are never markedly unknowable plot points in the noir-genre and as such it is the music made as murky motivations twang off hopefully engaging characters that these stories rely upon most.
Along these lines Michael R. Roskam’s The Drop fairs reasonably well. The disturbed silhouette from the opening frame is Tom Hardy’s seemingly simple barman, the noise he’s heard is an abused dog whose been thrown in the bin, Rocco, who’ll soon function as MacGuffin and symbol simultaneously. He finds the dog in Noomi Rapace’s rubbish and he argues over what to do with it with his Uncle Marv, who’s James Galdolfini back from the dead once more and not doing a great deal more than he did in New Jersey for HBO for almost a decade. The sense of impending doom is set in motion by the Czechian gangsters who run a bookies through Marv’s former bar, which gets robbed at the start and whose responsibility transpires to be more of a multi-layered question than you’d expect, except perhaps if you were aware you were watching a Dennis Lehane noir film.
I’m referring to the film in a tone that would suggest it will not surprise you and in a certain sense of the word that is true. There are a couple of twists in store in the third act and at least one eureka air-puncher moment but for the most part this is business as usual.
The film’s greatest strengths are in the acting, the script and the thematic symbol of the dog (if you think about it). The performances are great across the board though particular credit should fall at the feet of Hardy who does a great Rocky and Matthias Schoenaerts who does a great bastard. The dialogue, however colloquial the delivery, is as sharp as one would expect from an author of Lehane’s stature, and for once the inclusion of a dog as a major story-point doesn’t give cause for foreheads to whack palms. The film’s greatest weakness is that it doesn’t demand a cinema visit of the audience and doesn’t strive to stand out from the standard fair of rain-soaked detective fiction. The Drop is good pulpy, crime fiction of the sort there’s never a shortage of.
Worth a watch for a fan of anyone involved, strangers to the cause might save their allowance this week.
15A (See IFCO for details)
The Drop is released 14th November 2014