As someone important supposedly said at some point, there are films and there are movies. A film festival* probably isn’t the best place for a movie to be appreciated, sort of like a molecular gastronomy pot luck isn’t the best place for a hamburger. But to paraphrase Jules Winfield, mmm-MMMM, The Drop *is* a tasty burger. Does it change the game? No. But it’s so good ‘n’ greezy I want to hold the wax paper over my head and suck out the juice before it congeals. Read as much Tom Hardy-inspired homoerotic euphemism as you want into that last sentence, by the way, it’s probably true. In my opinion, any red-blooded heterosexual male who isn’t completely gay for Tom Hardy is immediately suspect.
Incidentally, The Drop involves Tom Hardy raising an abused pit bull puppy he found in a trash can, so you should probably consider wrapping your ovaries in electrical tape before you watch it to keep them from exploding. In fact I think I lactated a bit while I was typing that. Hardy, in full sensitive lug mode, plays Bob Saginoski, a comically sweet and sensitive (but tough!) fever dream of blue collar masculinity, who goes to church in the mornings but doesn’t take communion, and spends his days pissing off his boss (James Gandolfini) at the neighborhood bar by not making the sad old bag lady who sits in the corner pay for any of her drinks. Like so many underworld movie protagonists, Bob seems to be trying to atone for something, but we’re not sure what. With his pillowy lips and manly beard, he exudes big brotherly tough tenderness, and with his aw shucks, I’m-alright-Spider line reads, is such a lovable sweet boy that he makes Ryan Gosling look like he shoots child porn by comparison.
One day Bob finds the aforementioned puppy in the aforementioned trashcan, which happens to be in Noomi Rapace’s yard (love interest!). This discovery gets Bob mixed up with a crazy ex who abuses not only women but puppies (innocent squeaking adorable little puppies, can you imagine?!?), and keeps Bob elbow deep in chew toys, carpet cleaner, and dog books that he’s too dumb to read, but sensitive enough that he really really wants to! “I think it’s a boxah,” Bob says.
“That eez not a boxer, eet’s a peet bull,” Noomi Rapace corrects him, while they give the pup a sponge bath in some spiritual descendant and thorough improvement on the pottery scene in Ghost.
Tom Hardy names his puppy Rocco, after St. Rocco, and the two spend all day together because they’re best friends now. Jesus Tittyf*cking Christ, it’s the cutest thing in the world.
Bob the dog-loving, old-lady friendly bartender would be content to hang out with his girl and his puppy, pouring drinks all day for idiot brick layers while they toast the Giants and the Jets, in between garbage truck joy rides, kitchen snake sword fights, and headbutting carburetors (whatever it is blue collar guys do, which me and this movie mostly learned from truck commercials), except the bar where he works happens to be a front for… “the Chechnyans,” as Gandolfini’s character says. “Chechens,” corrects handsome Bob. “They’re from Chechnya, but they’re called ‘Chechens.’ You don’t call people from Ireland ‘Irelandians,’ do you?”
My God, he can teach too?? *SWOON*
Demonym discussions aside, Chechens turn out to be as compelling as heavies as Tom Hardy is as dog dad, and it’s all just a pleasure to watch. In addition to Gandolfini, the cast includes John Ortiz, who maybe isn’t at Gandolfini’s level (RIP), but you’d be hard pressed to find two more rock solid supporting actors. I’ll leave out additional plot summary, but suffice it to say, none of the story is entirely unpredictable. But it forces you into a corner where you’re absolutely dying for the predictable thing to happen, and when it finally does it’s so brusque and cathartic and perfectly executed that the experience is either orgasmic, religious, or religiorgrasmic and you just want to cum on a communion cracker.
The Drop is my favorite kind of movie-movie, where it’s so good while dancing right on the edge of being pretty bad. It’s silly and cliché and unrefined, but you love it anyway because it’s big and bold and it wears its silliness on its sleeve, like the CHICKA CHICKA CHICKA sounds in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” intro. A movie like this comes along every few years. The last one like it might’ve been The Town, though The Drop is somehow better. Wait, did I say “somehow?” Just go back and change that to “Tom Hardy plays with an adorable puppy.” Ben Affleck never had a chance.
I’d gone in expecting a run-of-the-mill genre movie and as the credits rolled I sat there wondering why it had been so good. It was like Elmore Leonard, but not as screwball, angrier, and with a more straightforward plot. Then I saw that it was based on a Dennis Lehane story and directed by the guy from Bullhead and suddenly it all made sense. I’m not sure I would’ve enjoyed The Drop as much if I’d gone in knowing I was seeing a Lehane story. Expectations and critical acclaim absolutely ruin a skronky garage rock movie like this, so I apologize for contributing to that in any way. Though I certainly would’ve expected more people to get molested. It’s always shocking when you get to the end of a Lehane story and no one has been molested, or has murdered their molester, or sought out their molestor and had him forcibly molested. In any case, the Lehane short upon which The Drop was based is called “Animal Rescue,” and if I have one criticism of The Drop, it’s that Animal Rescue is a much better title.
Other than that, I don’t think I’ve ever had to work so hard to stifle squeals of glee.
*I saw this at TIFF. From the extreme front row.
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. You can find more of his work on FilmDrunk, the Uproxx network, the Portland Mercury, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.