The Drop is an atmospheric crime story with fine performances, especially from star Tom Hardy. As for the plot — well, it keeps the characters busy.

The screenplay is by Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island. Animal Rescue, the Lehane short story on which the film is based, was set in Boston, but the movie takes place in Brooklyn. Different accents, but that's certainly no problem for Hardy, Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini.

The Drop is Gandolfini's final film. His performance as a bar owner who gets involved with organized crime is as good as you would expect from the man who was Tony Soprano, but the film doesn't afford the actor room to stretch. Enough Said, the smart romantic comedy-drama that paired Gandolfini with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, showcased the versatility of the man. Better that he be remembered for the promise of his role there rather that his unsurprising work here.

Hardy, on the other hand, continues to zig when you think he's going to zag. Look at this guy's career: Inception, Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises, Locke (if you've missed this one, I suggest you see it asap) and, coming next year, Mad Max: Fury Road.

In The Drop the usually commanding Hardy plays Bob Saginowski, a mild-mannered fellow bar tending for his cousin Marv (Gondolfini) at Cousin Marv's Bar. Truth is, Cousin Marv's Bar is now controlled by the Chechen mafia, which makes Marv sad and angry. The dive is one of many drop bars, used by the Chechens to "rest" their money when need be.

Outside the bar, Bob comes upon a dog one day. The young pit bull was dumped in a garbage can after being beaten by some demented person. While Bob tends to the pooch, the woman whose yard he is in comes out. Nadia (Rapace) is fiercely protective, snapping photos of Bob's driver's license before allowing him into her house. They clean up the dog, which Bob soon names Rocco, and you can see the spark of a relationship begin.

Later a creep named Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts) confronts Bob, claiming he can prove he is the owner of the dog. Unless Bob forks over some big money, he may take Rocco back and hurt him again. There's more, including a robbery at Cousin Marv's, but you get the idea. As I said, the plot give the characters something to do.

I loved watching Hardy and Rapace. It was good to see Gandolfini one final time, though his character was too similar to others he's played to capture my imagination. Director Michael R. Roskam (Bullhead) does confident work. Some of his imagery is iffy (like the opening shot of the ... uh ... what the hell is that? ... oh, it's a puddle), but he creates a fully-realized neighborhood.

I enjoyed The Drop because of the atmosphere and the lead performers. The film has an agreeably slushy feel, though it drags in spots. Marco Beltrami's score is pushy. The production creates enough tension that we don't need to be nudged by Marco. If you expect your plot lines to be snappy, you may grow impatient with this. As a crime story, The Drop is art house fare.



Cantinflas ★★ (out of five)

The biography of the famed Mexican comic actor treats him like a saint, which is poison for this type of film. Oscar Jaenada plays Mario “Cantinflas” Moreno and he gives it his all, but the story's insistence on painting the performer as an underdog hero undermines the film. Much more interesting is the side story of Hollywood producer wannabe Michael Todd's (Michael Imperioli) efforts to get his movie Around the World in 80 Days bankrolled. Cantiflas won a Golden Globe for his work in that film. Nobody will win anything for their work in this one.

The Identical ★1/2

Ryan Wade (Blake Rayne, an Elvis impersonator also known as Ryan Pelton), is a Drexel Hemsley impersonator (in this movie Drexel Hemsley = Elvis Presley). What Ryan doesn't know is that he's actually Drexel's identical twin. You'll hear Drexel “hits” like “Boogie Woogie Rock 'N' Roll” that sound about as authentic as the rock songs on Bewitched or The Brady Bunch, You'll watch the separated at birth story and you'll be told a religious story. Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green and Joe Pantoliano also star in this curiosity. It's not all awful. The cast, aside from the kinda stiff Rayne, is fine, with Liotta being the clear standout.


Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.