The Drop

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This week in cinemas creates an interesting “point-counterpoint” type of situation between A Walk Among the Tombstones starring Liam Neeson, and The Drop, featuring Tom Hardy; these two films, both ostensibly crime dramas and starring well known actors, offset one another in narrative quality. As we’ll explore, the places where Tombstones falls flat are the same places in which The Drop succeeds—and then some.

The film is directed by Michaël R. Roskam, whose only other feature film was the Belgian drama Bullhead (2011) and is written by novelist Dennis Lehane. As the man behind the novelizations of Gone, Baby, Gone and Shutter Island (adapted by Scorsese in 2010), Lehane’s screenplay was inspired by one of his short stories entitled “Animal Rescue.” It’s abundantly clear that Roskam and Lehane make a great team, as Roskam’s careful, deliberate style of filmmaking lends gravity to and emphasizes Lehane’s beautifully paced, character-driven story.

Speaking of characters, the film’s central protagonist, Bob Saginowski, was masterfully brought to life by Tom Hardy, whose understated yet quietly intense performance reminded me, in the best of ways, of Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of the unnamed protagonist in Drive (2011). Continuing this positive trend, the chemistry between Hardy’s Bob and love interest Nadia, played by Noomi Rapace, felt amazingly natural and compelling; more importantly, however, the relationship between the two was vital in a narrative sense (as opposed to being strong-armed in, which we tend to see a lot of in Hollywood) as it provided context for the actions of the antagonist, expertly played by Matthias Schoenaerts, making him appear all the more dangerous and unpredictable. The Drop also features the final performance of the late James Gandolfini, who plays Cousin Marv, an ex loan shark with strong ties to the local organized crime syndicate. As expected, Gandolfini proves to be a perfect fit for the role, and gives a performance that I like to think he would be proud of.

No stranger to the crime drama genre, Dennis Lehane shows considerable restraint by omitting much physical violence—that is, until the final, bloody climax. Instead, the story progresses via the implication of violence and veiled threats as the protagonist is beset on all sides by forces which threaten to decimate the quiet, fragile life that he has created for himself. Throughout the film, the audience discovers that Bob, trapped in the center of an unstable and violent world, might be infinitely more complex than we might have first imagined.

One of the only real criticisms I can level at the film is that there’s an intrigue established early on concerning an ongoing investigation by a Detective Torres (John Ortiz). Presumably, the intent was to create a little more pressure to the event’s of the film and to add a sort of ticking-clock element to the proceedings. While it works well at the beginning and helps to establish the characters and events to a certain extent, it doesn’t really end up going anywhere by the end. I do think it’s a nice touch though, because the police investigation, which is external to the immediate events of the film, lends a bit of perspective and gives the impression that there’s a larger world outside of Cousin Marv’s bar and its denizens.

The Drop, in my opinion is one of the best crime dramas around and easily one of the best films of the year so far. Granted, it’s only just now the beginning of October, but before all the Oscar-bait starts hitting the screen, Roskam’s sophomore effort is, without a doubt, a very fun time at the movies.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Netflix Movie of the Week #8: In the Loop

As an avid movie goer, it always seems difficult to find a balance between intelligence and laugh out loud humor in comedies.  With that in mind, this week’s Netflix Movie of the Week is In the Loop, a British political satire from the people who are currently making the HBO show Veep. Poking fun of all the political nonsense that has been going on in recent year regarding involvement in the Middle East, In the Loop is a hilarious and over the top portrayal of what is wrong with modern government, or specifically the people who run it.

In the Loop is about a run of the mill government bureaucrat, Simon Foster, a minister of international development, who without thinking says he believes “war is unforeseeable” to a news reporter.  After scrambling to recover from the fallout of his gaff, Foster, the easily angered Malcom Tucker (Peter Capaldi), and a handful of interns travel to Washington D.C. to discuss the idea of British Military support for conflict in the Middle East.  While this all may sound incredibly dry, this movie is simply hilarious, lampooning the failings of modern politics while providing some of the wittiest, characteristically British dialogue I have seen in a good while.

The cast of this film is also pretty brilliant, and through a combination of strong comedic actors and writing, they are able to keep the movie moving at a decent pace, where this movie goes beyond simply being clever yet not actually funny, a problem that many satires suffer from.  This is not just a movie that you will smirk through, it is a legitimate comedy and not just a movie made for the purpose of making a statement.  If anything, the movie just breeds the feeling that most of the bureaucratic government system is completely absurd.  If you like this movie or think it is something you’d like, I would also recommend Veep, it is pretty similar and also a very solid comedy.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5