There are many remarkable things about THE DROP, but the foremost is the way in which it so perfectly evokes its film noir roots. Set in the seamy underbelly where might is right and cops can do little but wring their hands, it is a world dark in thought and deed, where the wrong thing is the only thing to do, and people with a conscience bear an outsize burden.
The one good man in this morass is Bob (Tom Hardy), who tends bar at a mob-owned establishment where money is laundered in large quantities. Bob is a quiet man with a tender heart and dark shadow hanging over him. Chided for sentiment by his cousin and boss, Marv (James Gandolfini), the former owner of the establishment that still hears his name, Bob buys free drinks for the effluvia of society, and attends daily mass, though he never takes communion, and has no friends outside of his workplace. That changes when he discovers an injured puppy, and strikes up an acquaintance with Nadia (Noomi Rapace) the prickly woman in whose yard the puppy was dumped. He also comes to the attention of a local cop (John Ortiz) when said cop is assigned to investigate the bars robbery. He also comes to the attention of the dogs owner, a psychopath with an agenda other than reclaiming his pet.
Treading delicately between them all with a studied humility, Bob is drawn to Nadia, keeps the mob boss at bay, and the detective at arms length in a measured attempt to keep the people, and the dog, he cares for alive.
The script, by Dennis LeHane, and based upon his short story Animal Rescue, is subtle in its exploration of good and evil battling for purchase in this small corner of the planet. Biblical justice vies with unexpected mercies, and the question of doing what is legal is never considered in a reality where the right thing involves taking matters into ones own hands. Hardy, the hero of the piece is also an actor who imbues this character with layers upon layers of conflicting emotions, and a fervent but hopeless longing for an absolution he knows will never come. The unfussy romance between Bob and Nadia, both wounded souls taking a leap of faith, is affecting in its tentativeness, and in the characters way of both resisting and pursuing it. Conversations have multiple meanings, both for the potential couple, and for the other people in Bobs sphere, who make allusions to issues past and present without ever quite saying what they really mean, but nonetheless make themselves crystal clear.
Mirroring the shifts in loyalties, the cameras focus fades in and out, bringing clarity with the sharp jolt of surprise, either of betrayal or alliance. The mood is tense, with a wrong word or a wrong move changing the dynamics without warning. The uneasy sense of never being quite sure what to think about anyone or anything played to perfection. THE DROP is a film that challenges the moral compass of everyone watching it.