A phenomenal cast, including Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini, lead this gritty thriller about Bartender Bob Saginowski (Hardy) and his hardened employer Uncle Marv (Gandolfini) who must choose between survival and loyalty when they find themselves caught in a robbery gone bad, and on the hook for a mob debt they can't repay.
Aside from those of genre-master Martin Scorsese, mob movies tend to revolve around the "usual suspects" of stereotypes, cliches, and plot points. Those that fall victim to this travesty ultimately go down in the history books as forgettable and skippable - but Belgian filmmaker Michaël R. Roskam has stepped in to take the genre back to its most simplistic roots.
Tom Hardy leads 'The Drop' as simple introvert and Brooklyn bartender Bob. Being a calm and gentle person, you'd never peg him as the type that would work in a "drop bar." The movie kicks off with Bob narrating how drop bars work: the mob can't funnel their dirty money through normal channels, so they randomly assign a different bar each night to be the designated drop spot for the day's illegal earnings.
Bob's cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) used to own the bar – which still carries the name "Cousin Marv's" – but was forced to sell it to Chechen mobsters. It's unclear if he sold the bar due to Chechen "persuasion" or if it was the result of falling on hard times when his father became ill. Despite not technically being his, the bar has since returned to stasis - but won't remain that way for long. After the movie's intro, two dimwitted thieves rob the bar – luckily not on a drop night – and cause the Chechens to bring their seemingly passive rage. After threats are made, Bob and Marv are charged with discovering the identities of the robbers and recovering the stolen $5,000. The punishment of failing to do so is left to their own imaginations.
'The Drop' doesn't require brutal outbursts of grizzly violence to carry itself along. That's not to say there isn't violence, but it's not at all required to drive the momentum of the film. 'The Drop' is a drama. It's methodically slow. The heat is gradually turned up until it hits a single boiling point at the end. In place of the stereotypical violence, it features solid characters. Violence shocks you into caring for characters, but caring for the characters who are threatened with violence results in a completely different type of tension.
Shortly into the film, Bob meets an injured puppy and a cute single girl polayed by Noomi Rapace. Being a good and gentle man, Bob knows that he must help the wounded and abandoned dog, but he doesn't know how to do it and certainly doesn't have the time to do it on his own. Having found the dog at the same time, he coaxes her into sharing the responsibility. Their non-sexual relationship is fantastic. Rapace's last mobster movie, 'Dead Man Down,' didn't perform too well, but she certainly delivered a brilliant performance in it. Hers in 'The Drop' isn't quite that strong, but it's still very effective. It's because their story is unconventionally blended with that of the Chechen mobsters that the heat is really turned up and you fear for what's to come with the impending raging boil.
If you enjoy character and performance-fueled films, then you shouldn't miss 'The Drop.' It's the definition of a successful slow-burner and a very welcome entry to the mobster genre.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox has placed 'The Drop' on a Region A BD-50 and slapped it into a standard blue Elite keepcase. Included in the package is a slip that will enable you access to either an iTunes or an Ultraviolet digital copy – one or the other. A cardboard slipcover is included. I don't recommend removing the Digital Copy sticker that's been placed on the slipcover because it leaves an unremovable sticky residue. Upon popping the disc into your player, you'll be forced to watch a Fox vanity reel prior to skippable advertisements for 'Wild,' 'Birdman,' 'Calvary' and Fox's digital HD releases.
Shot digitally, 'The Drop' features a flawless 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoding. From the opening Fox vanity reel to the closing credits, there's not a single problem within it.
There's a perfect sharpness to every frame of every scene. Fine lines are as defined as could be and motion is smooth and natural. Details are everpresent – from varying clothing texture down to the hairs on Rocco (the dog). Not only will you see the individual hairs in Gandolfini's goatee, but you'll see the thin untrimmed hairs that have grown above the defined edges near his cheekbones. The amount of detail is endless.
The design and color palette of 'The Drop' adds to the various settings and moods. The bar is filled with warm amber and green hues. It's absolutely inviting, giving the impression that it's a safe and welcome place. It's off-putting when danger arrives in the bar. Set in the weeks following Christmas, the frigid nature of outside settings is conveyed through the lifeless cold color-bleaching florescent lighting. Darkness is used widely throughout the film – even during daytime scenes. Black levels are brilliant and never result in crushing. Rich shadows can consume details when desired, yet black objects are just as defined as the bright and colorful ones.
There isn't a single compression error to be found here. No noise, banding, artifacts or aliasing.
Just like the video, the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is flawless.
If you had complaints about the mixing of Tom Hardy's voice in 'The Dark Knight Rises,' then you're going to love how his voice is mixed in 'The Drop.' Hardy applies a gentle Brooklyn accent for the role. His narration is perfectly clear, loud and audible. Throughout the movie, despite speaking in a low semi-quiet voice, it's just as strong. Not a word of dialog is unintelligible. This is the anti-Bane mix.
Music is consistently and dynamically spread through the entire space, but the effect mixing will be the biggest attention-grabber. Street settings are wonderfully filled with the ambient sounds of car engines, tires splashing through wet surface streets, horns and sirens. These sounds – and many more – emit from all channels uniquely. When called for, objects like passing cars seamlessly image across the space.
This mix isn't at all lazy. It takes the high road. It's never flat, boring or stagnant. There's always something to be heard and all channels are constantly offering something to listen to.
If you're a fan of solid mobster movies and slow-burning dramas, then look no further. 'The Drop' takes the crime genre back to its origins with a cliche-free tale that's just as intense as it is symbolic. It plays just fine for casual viewers, but has another layer for those who like to put thought into the films they watch. With fantastic direction, Hardy, Gandolfini and Rapace deliver the kind of relatable and meaningful performances that we've come to expect from them. The picture and video qualities are absolutely flawless. A great commentary and set of deleted scenes are included, but the disc is overall a little light on special features. Despite that, 'The Drop' is still a Blu-ray that I highly recommend checking out – especially if you're the type that likes to analyze and revisit strong layered films.