I love when films start off with characters who are fully developed, and throw you in the middle of a conflict. Quentin Tarantino is a master of this. That great flashback that reveals how everything happened to bring the character to where they are in the beginning of the story is one of his motifs. This, or the lack of this in a way, is one of the great things about The Drop, directed by Michael R. Roskam.
The Drop is about Bob and his Cousin Marv. Tom Hardy, who plays the innocent Bob, and the late James Gandolfini, who plays the tough cousin Marv (in one of his last performances) have a great chemistry with each other. They manage a bar by the docks of Brooklyn which is owned by the Chechen Mafia. The cousins are robbed by a pack of hoodlums and Bob finds a lost pitbull and a love interest. This love interest, however, comes attached to an unwanted character. The bar which they own is a Drop bar. This means it’s used by the Russian Mafia at certain times of the year to drop off large amounts of dirty money that needs laundering. The Drop is set to happen at their bar again during the superbowl, and with the hoodlums at large, the Mafia’s mistrust, and troubles coming for bob, the film starts off from there.
If you haven’t watched it, please do! and then come back when you finish to read the rest of this post, as it is full of spoilers.
Now that that’s settled.
One of my favorite details about The Drop is that it’s mostly about the past behind the characters portrayed. The characters of Bob, Nadia, Cousin Marv, and Eric Deeds all have a dark past they hide and/or deny. However, in this film, no flashbacks happen. This film is more real then a Tarantinos films in that way. Everything you hear from a character, whether a lie or truth is not backed up by the verification of a flashback. As such, you have to take every character for their word until it’s otherwise proven wrong. It makes the twists and turns all the more enjoyable, specially towards the end. And even though the film ends up being about redemption in the last few lines, there is another common theme, which I think is bigger and bolder in it. Appearances can be deceiving. The characters all keep you entertained because They’re all lying to each other. There’s one character which brings out parts of true personality in another, and this is another constant motif. For example:
The small wounded animal is almost the object which triggers the plot to turn and can represent every character in the relationship. Bob finds him in the garbage outside Nadia’s house. The film doesn’t tell you that Nadia might have thrown him in the trash, which means he could represent her old Boyfriend, Eric. Beat up and wounded, he can represent Nadia herself, put in the trash by her ex boyfriend who mistreated her. When Bob first finds him he mistakes him for a boxer. Once he’s corrected by Nadia who tells him he’s a pitbull, although he looks small, fragile, and innocent, his first reaction is looking wearily at the dog and saying, “Those dogs are dangerous.” This shows us the little pitbull is a perfect representation of Bob. He’s always around in the scene between those three characters, almost as a reminder of the past hidden from each other.
Nadia is wounded but obviously there is more to her then that. We are shown in the film that she is to a certain extent, a masochist. She hurt herself and is trying to get away from her past by not doing it any more. She did drugs while going out with an abusive boyfriend. She hurts herself by throwing away the wounded dog, which reminded her of her past. She seems to leave her door unlocked in the scene where her ex comes back to her. She has cuts on her arms and needle marks which she tries to hide. Yet, at every turn she can, she portrays strength and tries not to be scared. She wants to be seen as strong. Once her ex comes back, she asks him to leave but is scared and seems hopeless, until reluctantly being helped by Bob. To keep up appearances, when meeting him outside her house, she doesn’t trust him and pretends to send his information to “people she knows.” However, she seems lonely throughout the film.
Eric is obviously emotionally unstable, and weak minded despite being physically strong. He wants to have the reputation of a bad ass, but has no merit because he’s a nobody. Therefore, he takes the credit for the death of a dock worker who died by Bob’s hand to try to seem scary. He bullies his girlfriend and her new boyfriend, and tried to wound the pitbull, who might or might not have been his. Once he tries to bully the wrong man, Bob, his plans backfire on him. He pridefully says that he’s the man who killed the dock worker ten years ago, and when Bob corrects him, he realizes who did. Right before he dies, Eric is portrayed as scared. Maybe just as scared as Nadia is.
Cousin Marv is perhaps even a bigger coward then Eric, as he has everything he wants to do done by others. It’s implied he used to be the leader of the gang that ruled around those parts until the Chechens came around. When it came time to make a move, according to Bob, he “Flinched” and was knocked off the throne. Now he works for the very people who took over. Although he calls it his Bar because it’s called Cousin Marv’s, it is owned by the Chechens. He clings to these times despite them being gone, and goes off at Bob in his basement. “I used to have something. I was respected. I was feared!” he says. He points out that Bob lets an old lady in the bar use what used to be “his stool”. But doesn’t explain why he never claims it back. It’s implied he had Marv do everything for him, including the hit on the dock worker. To top it all off, he tries to make a move again to take back his bar, but uses the two robbers to do it. Later, he uses Eric, and doesn’t even want to be there when it goes down. He’s finally hunted down as he tries to run away.
Bob is not exactly a liar, but he’s hiding the biggest secret of all. Hiding his entire past behind him. He’s a cold blooded killer, but this doesn’t affect his selflessness and fear of loneliness. This, in turn, is why he’s so loyal to his cousin Marv (which is probably the reason why he got as far as he did using him as muscle) And also why he tries to stick with Nadia after he witnesses his crime. He sees her loneliness as well. He is not proud of his past, and as such tries to hide it, until Eric comes along and threatens everything he’s worked hard to keep. Even though he tries not to put up an appearance like the other main characters in the film, people see him as a good man due to his personality. Yet he can wrap an arm to get rid of evidence shocking even his cousin. “You do it like it’s just a piece of meat. Like you’ve done it a thousand times.” He also surprises everyone who thought they had him figured out in his relationship. Eric, who had him figured for a weakling, and Nadia, who thought he was selfish are both shocked when unflinchingly he shoots Eric right in the chest. When bob does this, we catch a glimpse of him in the mirror. He sees Eric rather then himself, or is it the point of view of Nadia?
That’s why the film catches the viewer. The little you know intrigues you, and yet the characters don’t tell you much else. Every single past is implied and not fully realized for your interpretation and imagination to connect them. This is because you’re not spoon fed the information through visuals. It’s a great move on the writer’s and directors part.
Right before he goes to back to Nadia’s house to apologize, and we hear the line which everyone is left with, we see a scene in which the detective who is on the case throughout the film finally sees the real Bob. He talks about his cousin and Eric dying like it’s nothing. “It happens in neighborhoods like this all the time,” he says. As the detective leaves the bar, he turns and stares at bob. He says the one line that summarizes the motif of the film and the main character.
“They never see you coming, do they Bob?”
Thanks for reading!