The Drop is a tense and dark crime drama set in Brooklyn and centers on the character Bob, portrayed by Tom Hardy in a incredible understated performance, who tends the bar of his cousin Marv, James Gandolfini’s final fantastic performance. This bar is a ‘drop bar’, which means it collects money for the local Chechen mob. The film tells the seemingly disconnected stories of the bar getting robbed and the problems that arise from that, as well as Bob finding and adopting a puppy through which he meets and develops a relationship with Nadia, beautifully portrayed by Noomi Rapace, and results in him being stalked and threatened by Nadia’s ex-boyfriend and initial owner of the dog, Eric Deeds.
The separate stories start to be connected by the background information provided through the police investigation and ultimately get tied together when Marv involves Eric in robbing the bar, finally driving the always restrained Bob over the edge and revealing the truth about the past. This results in a twist which could only have been anticipated by very attentive viewers.
The Drop can be described as a crime drama. Drama films typically are “serious presentations or stories with settings or life situations that portray realistic characters in conflict with either themselves [or] others” and showing “human beings at their best, their worst, and everything in-between”1. Both of which can be applied to the film. The character driven plot focusses not on larger than life individuals but, at least seemingly, more average ones. Following them in its gritty tone, the film portrays a story that might be a bit incredulous but does not fully venture into incredibility. As its protagonists are involved in crime through the bar it also fits into the sub-genre of crime.
Relying heavily on dialogue to tell its story the film demands attention of its audience. Only the attentive viewer can pick up the subtle clues throughout the film and anticipate its huge twist. It is not an easy watch, but only more compelling for it, through its amazing script and incredible acting.
The big twist towards the ending is what the whole film has been slowly building up to, through its always present underlying tension that is finally released in this one moment that completely pays off and then some.
Interestingly, instead of ending the film on a depressing note shortly after this scene with a fitting parallel to the beginning through a voice over by Bob, it goes on and ends on hopeful note, rather unusual for a film in this genre.
Rocco is an integral part of The Drop‘s story, he is the link that ties everything together. It is through noticing the puppy that Bob meets Nadia and develops a relationship with her. Without needing her help in order to learn how to care for the dog and her becoming his dog sitter, it seems unlikely that any of the two would have crossed path and actually coming into contact with each other.
However, it is also this development that introduces Nadia’s jealous psychotic ex-boyfriend into the story. But his presence is first also connected to Rocco, as he claims to be the rightful owner of the dog and threatening Bob with taking him away, while Eric’s connection to Nadia is revealed only gradually. These threats to Rocco are what bring Eric to Marv’s attention, as Bob tells him about this and they meet when Eric shows up in the bar. This results in Marv hiring Eric in order to rob the bar. The final confrontation of Eric and Bob at the bar, which has been preceded by the increasing threats to Rocco, continually pushing Bob, is escalated by Eric forcing Nadia along with him. The three people connected through their relation to Rocco are finally united, while the dog himself might not be visibly present throughout, but underlies the encounter nonetheless, an underlying presence in the background, just as Rocco is in the next room. Bob verifying this by explaining him killing Eric with “he would have hurt our dog”.
Ultimately, Rocco’s final function is again for the relationship between Nadia and Bob, acting as a indicator for character. Nadia is terrified of Bob after watching the apparently soft hearted man shooting her former boyfriend. But when Bob seeks her out again after some time, she looks at Rocco and uses the way Bob treats this vulnerable being in order to judge his character and decides to trust him.
Rocco’s presence in the film serves to show Bob’s gentle heart. Hardy portrays him as a very quiet and reserved character. Bob has closed himself off from the rest of the world due to the events in his past. Meeting the dog changes that. The walls he build around himself are little by little chipped away through Rocco. Through loving the dog and being loved by him, Bob starts to open up to the world again, revealing that there is more to him than a shady bartender involved with the mob. This is also reflected through Rocco being a pit bull, a breed traditionally misjudged as dangerous. The character of a being is what is important, and this is shown in the film through their interactions, the good part of Bob’s character. Beginning from the moment Bob stops in order to investigate a sound and actually looking in a stranger’s trash to find the so easily ignorable source of something hardly heard. Continuing in him staying when a distrustful Nadia patches the dog up and his protectiveness when faced with the uncertainty of what kind of person might pick up the defenceless dog from the shelter, him viewing the adoption as a huge responsibility and actually keeping his word of picking him up, instead of just hoping that Nadia would take care of him. His seemingly endless patience with the misbehaving puppy and his tenderness in the way he treats Rocco. His willingness to pay a huge amount of money, which also appears to be all of his savings, in order to assure the security of his ward. All this serves to remind the viewer of this side of Bob, while the film keeps revealing more and more disconcerting information about Bob, from his involvement with the mob, over him calmly handling and disposing of a cut off human arm, to him finally being revealed as a killer. Despite all this, at the end of he film the viewer does the same as Nadia, looking at Rocco and using Bob’s relationship with his dog in order to judge him, resulting in a positive view.
As the film is adopted from the short story Animal Rescue, the importance of the dog’s involvement is intensified by this title. However, this title can also refer to more than that, especially as the film seems to lay its focus more on its human characters. Bob and Nadia can both be seen as damaged characters in need of rescuing. Both have been wounded in the past, Nadia coming out of an abusive relationship, and Bob being haunted by the past and what he has had to do. They both feature parallels to Rocco. Bob’s good-heartedness is reminiscent of a puppy and he gets exploited by the people around him, who see him as weak, like Eric and his cousin. Nadia is just as vulnerable as the innocent puppy, and both are abused by Eric, unable to defend themselves. Finding each other, through the reflecting presence of the dog, they are able to help each other heal, while they are together taking care of Rocco. Nadia finds someone gentle and unobtrusive in Bob, who she is able to trust even after what she has experienced. Bob suffers from the sins he has committed and tries to atone for them while at the same time not believing he actually can. He is reclusive but at the same time afraid of ending up alone. Yet, he is able to form a relationship with Nadia, who accepts him, despite what she has experienced. She sees the good in him, thus giving Bob hope for himself. And all of this was made possible through the connection they both share with and through Rocco.
What is so impressive about The Drop in regard to its animal presence is how Rocco is integrated in such a fitting and important yet subtle way, despite not being the films central focus. Instead of just representing an adorable presence or acting as comic relief as is it the case in many other films just featuring animals as more of a side note. By example the dog in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is only used for a laugh and providing plot information (effect of the adrenaline that later saves Holmes).
Also worth mentioning is the fact that Rocco does not die, despite him being under constant threat. This sets The Drop apart from a lot of other films (e.g. Shooter, I Am Legend). The death of the cute dog in films has become something so common, that people are afraid to watch films featuring them because they are afraid to have to watch them die. Thankfully, The Drop avoids this cliché and there is nothing hindering people to watch this, as it is a must-see for everyone who is capable of enjoying a well-written, slower, character-driven film.
Dennis Lehane, Animal Rescue
1Drama Films <https://www.filmsite.org/dramafilms.html> [accessed 10. January 2015]
The Drop – IMDb <https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1600196/?ref_=nv_sr_1> [accessed 19. January 2015]
The Drop, dir. by Michaël R. Roskam (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2014)