From the moment I first saw the list of movies being screened at this year’s 19th Annual Busan International Film Festival, The Drop was number 1 on my board. Tom Hardy has become one of the most consistently enjoyable actors on the big screen and he’s dangerously close to replacing Johnny Depp on my list of celebrity man-crushes. He conveys more power in a quiet stare than any dialogue could ever produce and, to the benefit of the viewing audience, Hollywood keeps feeding him tailor-made roles as a reward for that talent.
The first time I remember really noticing Hardy in a role was in Lawless with Shia Labeouf. The movie itself was nothing spectacular. It was fairly enjoyable to watch, but ultimately forgettable. Hardy was the exception. He never said much of anything as Labeouf stuttered and stammered through scene after scene, but his eyes had a way of drawing you in. He took that sort of quiet power and carried The Warrior from a throw-away MMA genre movie into one of the best sports movies in the last decade. In Bronson, his character was far from quiet, but that same power gets conveyed in every shot. If you still have any doubts about Tom Hardy’s ability to hold an audience, watch Locke. The entire movie takes place inside of a car as he makes an hour and a half drive to a hospital. You hear both sides of the conversations on his hands-free phone calls, but you never see any of the people he is actually talking to. His face is the only one you see in the entire movie. There is no action, no scene change, they barely change the camera angles inside the cramped car. Nothing physically happens. There hasn’t been a more boring description for a production setting since Waiting for Godot, yet Tom Hardy nails it. He just doesn’t shy away from those challenging roles. You can add his portrayal in The Drop to this list.
The movie takes it’s name from a series of “drop bars” around New York where money from illegal sports gambling gets ferried around the city each night. The entire operation is explained in the first 5 minutes or so of the movie and then it sits in the back of the room as the true story unfolds. Hardy plays Bob Saginowski, a lonely bartender working at Cousin Marv’s under the late James Gandolfini in one of his last performances. As the story develops, the audience gets small glimpses into each character’s motivation along the way, but none of it is force fed to us. One of the film’s strongest attributes lies in not holding our hand through each and every scene. Too many directors feel the need to show us every little detail about the reasons behind their character’s actions. If a sick relative is driving a character’s decision, there will be a scene where they tearfully hold their loved one’s hand in the hospital. If a car wreck changed a character’s life, an obligatory flashback to a family laughing and enjoying their time together before the wreck is almost guaranteed. It’s boring, it’s overdone, and it’s just not needed. Luckily, director Michaël R. Roskam agrees. The interaction we see on screen between Bob and Marv is enough to carry the movie without resorting to cheap, manipulative tactics to tell the audience how we’re supposed to feel. That subtlety is a welcome change. It’s used the most effectively with Marv, but that style is still carried over to every character on screen.
Unfortunately, The Drop only has one screening left at this year’s BIFF. Trust me when I say that the seat is well worth the price of admission. Wednesday, October 8th at 1pm in Cinema Center’s Haneulyeon Theater in Centum City is quite possibly your last chance to see it on the big screen. Don’t miss that opportunity. Stand in line. Buy your ticket. Thank me later.