Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Michael Aronov, Morgan Spector, Michael Esper, Ross Bickell, James Frecheville, Tobias Segal, Patricia Squire, Ann Dowd, Chris Sullivan
Written by: Dennis Lehane, based on his short story "Animal Rescue"
Directed by: Michaël R. Roskam
MPAA Rating: R for some strong violence and pervasive language
Running Time: 103
Date: 09/12/2014

The Drop (2014)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Dogs of Pour

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After landing an Oscar nomination for his film Bullhead, Belgian director Michael R. Roskam comes to America for this gritty, streetwise Dennis Lehane crime drama, written by Lehane based on his own short story.

Bob (Tom Hardy) works for his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) in a bar in a tough New York neighborhood. Occasionally, Chechen crime lords use the bar for their nightly "drops," and Bob must collect and keep packages of money overnight. Things are stable until Bob finds a pit bull puppy in a trash can and decides to rescue him; a woman named Nadia (Noomi Rapace) lends him a hand.

Unfortunately, a dangerous-looking thug (Matthias Schoenaerts) comes around, claiming that he knows Nadia and that the dog is his. At the same time, the bar is robbed and the Chechens come knocking, looking for the stolen cash to be replaced, and a police detective (John Ortiz) snoops around. Bob must dig around in past, dark secrets before making his next move.

Roskam emphasizes character and dialogue first, giving the main characters as well as a handful of supporters a strong inner life; each one feels as if they existed in the outer edges of the story before the movie ever started. Lehane's dialogue is sharp and prickly, including enjoyably lively throwaway moments.

Roskam also uses weather to fine effect. We learn through a few lines of dialogue that it's the Christmas and New Year season, but the film emphasizes drizzly cold, rather than any kind of celebration or joy. The plot, on the other hand, is a tad on the mushy side, and does not generate an air-tight scheme or much suspense, and the ending is a little too pat. The Nadia character is likable, but unfortunately doesn't amount to much more than window dressing. However, the performances, especially by Hardy and Gandolfini, as well as Bullhead star Schoenaerts, are quite strong.

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