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I am one of those sad people who gets pretty worked up if an animal is injured or killed in a movie. There’s a whole website, DoestheDogDie.com, that caters to the needs of people like me. I should have figured, then, that the way to guarantee suspense in a crime movie was to put a puppy at the center of some serious threats. The Drop does just that and the result is something like The Godfather meets Old Yeller.

In The Drop, Bob (Tom Hardy) works as a bartender in his cousin Marv’s (the late James Gandolfini) bar in Brooklyn, which is a “drop bar” for a scary organized crime group run by the menacing Chovka (Michael Aronov). One night on his way home from the bar, Bob finds a pitbull puppy beaten up and left to die in a trashcan outside the home of Nadia (Noomi Rapace). Nadia helps Bob clean up the puppy, later named Rocco, and teaches him a thing or two about training dogs once he decides to adopt him. Another night, the bar is held up and robbed of $5,000 worth of Chovka’s money. While Bob and Marv deal with the fallout from both the robbery and the police’s involvement, Bob starts getting threats from a local criminal Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaert), who claims to be Rocco’s rightful owner. This tangle of threats and problems is just the beginning, too.

What I liked most about The Drop, aside from watching Tom Hardy with an adorable puppy for two hours, was the amount of ambiguous character development. It’s hard to say, really, if there’s a single uncomplicatedly good person in the film. Everyone has a past or has flawed judgment. The characters feel very real, but the film achieves this through a lot of subtle details. For example, Bob lives in a house that is far too big for just him and, looks like it was decorated by an older woman. The setting raises questions about his character and his background that aren’t really taken up. Similarly, Marv and his sister argue about the end of life care for their father in a way that highlights Marv’s financial and emotional strain without the issue ever taking up much time in the film.

These complex characters are wonderfully played by the cast. I always forget what a fine actor Tom Hardy is, yet he always manages to say so much without really saying anything. In this movie he walks a fine line between reclusive saint and a guy you never want to cross. Noomi Rapace is both sympathetic and suspicious. In his last role James Gandolifini is both scummy and funny, even though the character is not much of a stretch for him, considering his body of work. As the detective investigating the bar John Ortiz’s performance is so subtle I’m still not sure if I think his character is a slimy cop or just overly invested.

The Drop manages to allow the characters to drive the movie while still giving the audience a compelling and suspenseful plot. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time not only because I didn’t want anything to happen to Rocco, but also because the complicated web of betrayals and threats was fascinating. I could see the plot unfolding, but was genuinely surprised by how it arrived at its destination. It was riveting.

The film is set in Brooklyn in the winter and as you watch, you can practically feel the cold, damp air. The cinematography captures the oppressive feeling of dark winter nights, adding to the suspense without getting heavy handed with the imagery. Overall, it’s a beautifully crafted and suspenseful film, even though it draws on many gangster cliches to get itself going. For strong performances, interesting characters, and some serious suspense, I rate The Drop 4/5 stars.

The Drop was written by Dennis Lehane, based on his short story “Animal Rescue” and directed by Michael R. Roskam. It runs 106 minutes and is rated R for violence and language.

Kasey Butcher

Kasey Butcher

She is proud to be a Ft. Wayne native, a graduate of Homestead HS, Ball State University & Miami University. She became involved with journalism editor-in-chief for her high school magazine. She authors the "At The Movies with Kasey Butcher" review. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer