Overview:  A lonely man who bartends for his cousin’s drop bar runs into trouble when he adopts an abused puppy found in a trash can. 2014, distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, rated R, 106 minutes.

Hard Men:  Director Michael R. Roskam has wisely kept Dennis Lehane’s fingerprints all over this film, from the characters, to the script, and everything in between.  The protagonists created by Lehane are historically hard, complicated men, and this time around it’s no different.  His script, along with the chemistry between Tom Hardy (Bob Saginowksi) and James Gandolfini (Cousin Marv), craft The Drop into a gritty, melancholy dive into the underbelly of Brooklyn gambling and crime.  Director R. Roskam and Lehane make an exceptional team, never wasting a single shot or line of dialogue.  If you miss a meaningful glance or a mutter from Hardy, you might lose a vital piece of the story.  There’s a particular moment in the movie when the skill of all these men comes together in perfect harmony.  A confrontation between Bob Saginowski and the criminally insane man who wants his dog back leaves Bob shaken, and you see a switch flip inside him.  He stands still in the dim hallway of the bar, bathed in the deep red light of the neon side that advertises “Cousin Marv’s,” and his face changes from hesitant and amicable to hard and menacing.  It’s truly unsettling, a bit terrifying, and an absolutely perfect movie moment.

The Drop

I Just Tend The Bar:  Similar stories about the brutality of the behind the scenes crime that takes place in cities such as Brooklyn (and the toll they can take on men who are just trying to get by) have been told through movies time and time again, but never like this.  The performances by Gandolfini and Hardy are truly flawless.  Cousin Marv is more than just a washed up bar owner, and Bob is much more than a quiet, reserved rule follower who just tends the bar.  One is a desperate man who will do anything to feel like he has some control over his own life, and the other is calm and serene on the surface but equally desperate to do anything to protect the few people he cares about.  This film burns slowly, building and stretching itself taut until it snaps, and boy does it snap. Patience is a virtue here, and it’s rewarded tenfold.

The Drop is a masterfully scripted film with terse, sharp dialogue and hauntingly pitch perfect performances, making it one of the best dark crime dramas in years.

Grade: A