The Drop

 

Bob Saganowski (Tom Hardy) is one of my favorite movie characters of 2014. He’s a bartender at Cousin Marv’s in the new film The Drop, a crime drama set in an Archie Bunker sort of neighborhood in Brooklyn. Marv, the bar’s former owner who still runs the place, is played by James Gandofini in his final film performance.

The bar is a place for money drops of ill-gotten gains. Various criminals throughout an evening hand over envelopes filled with cash. The cash is dropped into a safe. The story is kick started with an armed robbery of the bar.

Bob is a seemingly simple man. His life consists of tending bar, accepting the cash drops and going each day to mass, where he never takes communion. Bob’s rescue of an abused dog from a garbage can leads to his friendship with and attraction to Nadia (Noomi Rapace).

Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a small-time local hood who tells Bob the dog is his and makes threats against Bob and the dog. Deeds is in cahoots with Marv to pull an inside job and take all the money to be dropped at the bar on Super Bowl Sunday—a huge day for bookies.

Another key player is police detective Torres (John Ortiz) who investigates the first robbery and recognizes Bob from the daily mass. Torres appears to know what is going on with each of the characters, but chooses to let things happen.

The Drop is filled with strong performances from the actors playing each of the main characters. But it is Tom Hardy as Bob who soars. With his odd version of a Brooklyn accent and his slow, deliberate manner, Bob is revealed to have more going on than is initially obvious. Expect Hardy to be mentioned during awards season for his work here.

The script is by Dennis Lehane who wrote Mystic River, Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone. Belgian Michael Roskam directed. The story here is good, but it’s the characters—and the actors filling those roles—who provide the best reason to see and appreciate The Drop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prometheus

“Prometheus” is a big movie with some awesome images. Michael Fassbender’s performance is excellent.

“Prometheus” has things we’ve seen in sci-fi before: a planet (actually a moon) in a distant solar system with a hospitable atmosphere, a computer/robot who may have his own agenda and (of course) ugly creatures coming out of people’s bellies.

But it tells an entertaining story. And it introduces a few new things that may exist in our world 92 or so years from now, like an automated surgery machine—nice to have when you’re far away from Earth and your crew of 17 includes no surgeons.

The movie’s opening title sequence is a series of flyovers of stark, unpopulated landscapes. When viewed in 3-D on a large movie screen, the signal becomes clear: this is a movie with heft.

Noomi Rapace, Sweden’s Dragon Tattoo Girl, stars as a scientist who, with her colleague and lover played by Logan Marshall-Green, constructs the theory that leads to the mission to this faraway place. As they approach their destination, they and others aboard are awakened from suspended animation and informed that the mission has another additional purpose.

Charlize Theron is the boss of the trip. She’s an employee of Weyland Corporation, which is sponsoring the trip. During her “welcoming” speech to the crew, she introduces a hologram of old man Weyland, played by Guy Pearce. His really bad old man makeup job is the film’s worst flaw. (Were there no real old guys available? Kirk Douglas, maybe?)

Upon landing, the crew goes out to explore and look for signs that humans may have first come to Earth from this distant sphere. The monstrous dust storm that chases them back to their craft generates huge amounts of swirling debris that look great in 3-D.

Here’s where the plot really kicks in. Further exploration reveals answers to some of the movie’s/mission’s questions. This is where robot savant David, played by Michael Fassbender, begins to reveal all he knows. (His is the movie’s most impressive acting performance.) Be ready for terror, violence and creepy creatures.

“Prometheus” is positioned as a prequel to the “Alien” movies. It contains some of the elements of those films, but stands nicely on its own merit. It’s not the best sci-fi film ever, but it’s now on the list of very good, entertaining sci-fi movies.

 

 

 

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”

I have read that Action/Comedy movies are hard to make because you don’t want to compromise one genre too much to accommodate the other. “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” covers both bases well with a good balance of action and comedy.

Robert Downey Jr., who plays Holmes, is always worth watching. He brings massive on-screen charm. The film crew brings the gimmickry, which provides much of the film’s fun.

The plot, however, is a bit of a mess. But the movie has action galore, clever disguises, explosions, deeds of derring-do, even some opera. Does it all add up? Well, sort of, yes.

“SH: AGOS” has some pacing issues. Some of the exposition takes long chunks of dialogue. Overall, though, the movie gets its job done. That job, of course, is to channel the highlights of the successful 2009 Holmes movie and add a few new wrinkles.

Jude Law returns as Watson, Holmes’ assistant, consultant, rescuer, foil and chronicler. Rachel McAdams is back, but only long enough to pick up a check and get her name on the credits. If you’re going just to see her, stay home. The new female player in this game is Noomi Rapace (who starred in the Swedish versions of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is a good, not great, holiday diversion.