I've never read a novel written by Dennis Lehane, though I have seen several of the movies adapted from his work. I was underwhelmed by Mystic River and Shutter Island, but because I absolutely loved Gone Baby Gone, I remain willing to give his stories a try. That's the curious mix of doubtful and hopeful I brought to The Drop.
The movie tells the story of bartender Bob Saginowski, who works in a Brooklyn bar that serves as a money drop for the Chechen mob. The plot is a bit fragmented, with several threads that don't entirely mingle with one another. One sees Bob bonding with a woman named Nadia over an abused pit bull puppy, then coming into conflict with her ex-boyfriend as their relationship grows. Another sees Bob trying to keep as clean as possible despite the presence of the mob in his life. Still another sees the bar's former owner, Marv, trying to put one over on the mobsters that bought him out.
The resulting concoction is a bit odd, with the romance in particular feeling shoehorned in. Thanks to the performances, each subplot is fairly engaging while on screen... but seems less essential when the focus drifts somewhere else. It often seems like typical shorthand for defining character (he's kind to animals!) ends up expanding into entire subplots and not really being shorthand at all.
But as I mentioned, the performances definitely buoy the proceedings. Tom Hardy stars as Bob, and it's a role that plays to his strengths. Hardy is a more physical actor who can convey a lot while saying a little, and that's this role to a T. In the role of Marv, James Gandolfini makes his final movie appearance before his death. It's casting that leverages his history on The Sopranos; this character is definitely more frustrated and less in control, and it's certainly meant to be a contrast to how most audience members know him. Gandolfini does well with the part (even if it's not the triumph fans might have hoped for in his final appearance.) Also effective is Noomi Rapace as Nadia. She's saddled with an unfortunately stereotypical role in this male dominated story, but her appeal (and, at times, her fear) feels real.