By Preman Koshar, Contributing Writer ||

Watching The Drop is like wading through a gritty smokescreen. As the story pushes though the viscous air, the characters appear, just loose smoke at first, but soon solidify into complex and all-too-real people. The world they live in, meanwhile, also materializes out of the air with every step forward and feels almost tangible. I could almost smell the distinctive mix of old wood, stale Guinness, and assorted bodily fluids that almost certainly make up the smell of the bar where Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) and Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) work. Once the film is clear of the smoke, it turns out that while it hasn’t accomplished much in the way of distance, all that matters is that everything is finally clear and solid once again.

Bob is the bartender of the aforementioned bar, and to call him mild-mannered would be an understatement. He is the quietest, calmest, most-laid-back bartender I have ever seen. And Cousin Marv is, well, his cousin, who also happens to be the manager of the bar.

Now this bar is no ordinary bar. Marv’s bar is technically owned by the Chechen mafia, and they use it as a “drop bar.” A drop bar is one that is occasionally used to house the mafia’s money for a night, before it is shipped out to a new bar the next day. A drop bar could be used once a year or once a week, depending on the whims of the mafia leaders.

Within the first 15 minutes, a robbery takes place, and Marv and Bob are out of five thousand dollars of the mafia’s money. From here, The Drop becomes almost completely character-based, and the plot is of little importance. Some would critique this, saying that a movie has to have a story. I disagree — films usually are made to tell a story, but they are primarily made to emulate life and to demonstrate to the audience how many ways a life can be lived. Marv and Bob are both very interesting and unique characters with interesting and unique lives that only get more complex and compelling as the film progresses.

The Drop does not have exemplary cinematography, but it is not lacking in that department, either. The shots are balanced, and are often prolonged to really capture the moment and each of the character’s minute emotions. In particular, there are several memorable close-up shots of character’s faces during intense or emotional scenes that are very well done. The film’s sound department has succeeded in making a score that is neither bad nor remotely original. The score was generic in every way, and, while this is not a major problem, it is nonetheless too bad that it did not match the rest of the movie’s quality.

The acting was, however, top notch. Hardy was phenomenal in every way — he perfectly captured a tortured introvert’s quiet struggle with the dark forces around, and Gandolfini, a-la-Sopranos, pulled off an amazing portrayal of a good man with bad morals.

The dialogue was also of high-caliber. The characters’ conversations felt real, like they might actually be talking right now in some bar in Brooklyn and were never clichéd or too short.

The plot, as I said before, is not crucial to this film and, for that reason, is not very extensive. The Drop is a rare example of a character study, (very similar, in some ways, to other Dennis-Lehane-written films such as Mystic River) and a well-done character study does not need much of a plot. But The Drop delivers an exciting, suspenseful, and thought-provoking one nonetheless. The plot could have been more extensive and surprising, but, considering that it was still extremely entertaining even with a simpler plot than I would have liked, I have to admit the film was a success.

The Drop is a prime example of an expertly-conceived character study, and it is carried out with brilliant subtly, courtesy of Hardy and Gandolfini. While Oscar season is only just beginning, as of now, I would put this movie in the top 10 of the year. It is a masterful suspense film, with only a few minor flaws, and I’d highly suggest “dropping” in to see this one.

First- year Preman Koshar is a contributing writer. His email is