Movie Review: The Drop (2014)

9 10 2014

Well, I had to wait until September to see the best movie of the summer… because there were no films on my radar that came close to the gripping storytelling or depth of character performance of Michael R. Roskam’s THE DROP.


“I just tend bar. And wait.”

THE DROP is an amazing contribution to the crime-drama genre, expertly crafted by Dennis Lehane (who you may know from his other adapted works: MYSTIC RIVER, GONE BABY GONE, and SHUTTER ISLAND) and Michael R. Roskam.

Based off Lehane’s 2009 short story “Animal Rescue,” THE DROP stars Tom Hardy as Brooklynite bartender Bob Saginowski. The reserved bachelor and one-time thug immediately seems the guy to root for in this Chechen-dominated underworld. On a walk home, he discovers a brutalized puppy in a trash can and strikes up a relationship with the woman, Nadia, whose property the can is on. It turns out, there is a common shady figure, Eric Deeds, in their pasts that lurks back into focus. Trouble on top of trouble, he is.

“Are you doin’ somethin’ desperate? Again?”

The bar, Cousin Marv’s, gets held up by a couple of dumb brothers trying to prove themselves in the game. They’re aware that Cousin Marv’s is a longstanding local haunt, but it hasn’t quite been “locally owned” for more than a decade. Some shot callers from the Eastern Bloc muscled Marv and Bob’s crew out of power, letting Marv retain his establishment but requiring Bob to handle the collection of money to-be-laundered.

Seemingly anxious, self-isolating, and seeking redemption, pragmatic Bob hardly appears the kind of man to get on board with such activity. He lives alone in his parent’s house, prayer cards and plastic-wrapped furniture all around him. He hems and haws over the decision to care for the dog he found, eventually coming to treat the animal like his own child.

“I got news for ya, Fitzy. We’re all dead, we’re just still walkin’ around.”

Cousin Marv, who is in fact Bob’s relative, isn’t sitting by so quietly anymore. He may or may not have had a hand in the stick-up, and he may or may not be planning another hit on the biggest tip night of the year: Superbowl Sunday. He also may or may not end up dead in his car because the “Chechnyans” are on to him.

The robbery plotline kind of dissolves by the end, because Bob gets all riled up at the prospect of protecting his woman and his new canine companion, Rocco, from the psychotic Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts). Love and respect taking priority over the ego of an aging wannabe, family or no.

Tom Hardy is sexy as hell, even while he’s crazy-eyed and shooting people in the neck. By film’s end, I couldn’t decide if Nadia (Noomi Rapace) was hanging around him because she was afraid to leave or because she was enamored of his extreme efforts to be the alpha-male on the block. Hardy disappears into the role of Bob Saginowski, without a hint of his natural accent or impish charm peeking through. Bob is supposed to come off as straight-laced and pretty vanilla, that is until he expertly disposes of a bloody limb left outside the bar. Hardy masters the script, revealing little bits of Bob’s true (mildly terrifying) self with a quip here and a covert move there. From Bane to Bondurant, I love his diversity!

The late James Gandolfini plays Cousin Marv, a neighborhood guy who sees himself as considerably ‘harder’ than he is able to live up to. Facing pressure from his sister (Ann Dowd) to finally act his age; the financial burden of caring for an ill, elderly parent; and the emasculation of knowingly being pushed out of your own business create the perfect storm for Marv to lash out and get himself in a situation he cannot handle, and Bob is not willing to clean up (like last time). Cousin Marv is kind of the antithesis of Tony Soprano, the groundbreaking HBO gangster whom Gandolfini portrayed for six seasons (and earned 3 Emmys). Tony had vision, Marv has half-assed ideas. It was at once odd and reassuring to see Gandolfini as Marv, his last major film appearance before his June 2013 death. To see this burly, brutish-looking actor take on roles of pronounced vulnerability (ENOUGH SAID, THE DROP) at what turned out to be the end of his career, speaks volumes about the varied body of work the actor was trying to accomplish for his professional legacy. He was much more than Tony Soprano, and we’d do well to acknowledge that for him even post-posthumously.
THE DROP presents as one story and flips you onto a new path a few times to keep your interest. Let’s just say I was alert and engaged from the first frame, while my fellow audience members were actively . THE DROP took in nearly $5 million last weekend, a respectable feat considering it opened in less than 1,000 theaters. Check Fandango and get yourself to see THE DROP as soon as possible- this is one movie that is sure to be a sleeper during the upcoming awards season, and you’ll be sorry to have missed it. #MarkMyWords

 

THE DROP
2014
Fox Searchlight Pictures





Married ‘Smash’ Director Catches The McPheever…

22 10 2013

Like many families across the US, mine were avid “American Idol” watchers (until the abomination of Nicki Minaj judging took over the airwaves).  Our hooting and hollering was usually in good fun, unless we found ourselves at odds over a contestant.
Season 5, which aired in 2006, was a particularly hostile year.  I couldn’t explain it, but I was dead-set against Katharine McPhee. Week after week as she progressed in the competition, I did not catch ‘the McPheever.’  I deliberately wrote the call-in numbers down wrong so my family couldn’t vote for her!

I have always thought, though McPhee has been candid about her struggles before reaching stardom, she was one of those needy, annoying starlets who didn’t have the chops to live up to the hype her ‘people’ generated.  Her turns onscreen in The House Bunny and Shark Night 3D were less than Oscar Razzie-worthy.  Her albums, released in 2007 and (two in) 2010, were only modestly successful.

In 2008, she made headlines (in People, Us Weekly anyway) for marrying her significantly older beau, Nick Cokas.  Earlier this year, McPhee told Lucky magazine that although she had pictured life a little differently, she is glad not to have any children yet. “I’m selfish right now, but that’s how and where I should be. The thing is, work is the thing I love the most,” she said. Her  five-year marriage to Cokas was confirmed/acknowledged in the article as well (January 2013 issue).

I fully admit to being a gossipy, judgmental kind of person sometimes, but when someone doesn’t sit well with me, it is never for no reason. The personality flaws and errors in morality may not be immediately apparent, but I’ve had the misfortune of finding, eventually, everyone is who I think they are.
I also will disclose that I am guilty of often letting the personal lives of some celebs, as told by those nagging glossy tabloids at the grocery check-out, get in the way of my enjoying their work. (HALLE BERRY & TOM CRUISE, for example. )

(Photo Credit: TMZ)

(Photo Credit: TMZ)

So today when I logged into TMZ, as I do every day as I snack on my lunch, I was not surprised to read that McPhee was caught, in the middle of the California sunshine, kissing her ALSO MARRIED former Smash series director, Michael Morris.

I was incensed by this news because Morris, who previously produced and directed for ABC’s Brothers & Sisters series, himself is married– to the wonderful, talented, hilarious Mary McCormack (formerly of The West Wing and In Plain Sight).  How can these celebs continually misbehave and think they’ll get away with it? When you live a public life, you are never alone and, depending on the level of fame you achieve, your business is never just your own. It’s the price you pay for willingly participating in an industry that is in cahoots with the sensationalism of a 24/7 news media.

Though I anticipate statements from each camp by week’s end (a source has already told TMZ McPhee and Cokas have been living apart for 6 months), I can’t help but be reminded of the love-triangles and humiliating marriage-ending affairs passed… (Just to name a few!)

Tiger Woods and Elin Nordgren; other woman: Rachel Uchitel (among many others).

LeeAnn Rimes and Dean Shermet; other man: Eddie Cibrian (who was also married, to Brandi Glanville).

Sandra Bullock and Jesse James; other woman: Michelle McGee (among others).

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart; other man: Rupert Saunders (who was married to model Liberty Ross at the time).
**Stewart is also said to have cheated on her boyfriend of 3-years, Michael Angarano, with Pattinson.

Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe; other woman: Abby Cornish.

Former POTUS Bill Clinton and Hilary Clinton; other women: Monica Lewinsky, Ginnifer Flowers, Paula Jones…

Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid; other man: Russell Crowe.

Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher; other woman: Elizabeth Taylor.





The Lincoln Lawyer

27 11 2011
(Originally posted on alternate site – July 13, 2011)
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About an hour in to The Lincoln Lawyer, supporting character, attorney Ed Minton (played by the always engaging Josh Lucas) reminds us:   Anyone can be the victim of a violent crime.

The 119-minute drama, which opened in theaters last March, centers on a mid-level defense attorney named Mickey Haller. Haller is the subject of a series of novels written by Michael Connelly, the first of which was released in 2005.

The story and all the players are well conceived, but this thriller failed to get my blood pumping the way McConaughey’s previous turns as hero for the everyman in A Time to Kill and We Are Marshall.

I had hoped the classic Lincoln Haller and his chauffer, Earl, spend so much time in would be a character in itself.  However,  while prominent to the business of this slick penal guru, the towncar plays a lesser part than expected — given that it is a key term in the title! “The Lawyer” doesn’t quite have the same punch.

McConaughey’s dip into the sordid is a welcome change from his pretty-boy roles in such films as Fool’s Gold, Failure to Launch, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.  His charming Southern drawl is irrepressible, and while it is a trait that gives a little extra color to each character he plays — it is oddly recieved in this film, as the story plays out entirely in the state of California.

Ryan Phillipe, as entitled playboy Louis Roulet, was a dry, frustrated version of Sebastian Valmont — the wealthy, wayward bad-boy he played in 1999′s Cruel Intentions.   The sparkle gone from his once-beautiful blue eyes… Methinks when one cheats on Hollywood darling Reese Witherspoon, the universe strips away some of your talent.

An underused John Leguizamo plays Val Valenzuela, a character not outlined in available novel descriptions. This role had the potential to be as bad-ass as Leguizamo’s cocaine-dealing guerilla Felix Ramirez in Collateral Damage and vindictive as his Tybalt in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 adapatation of Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet.  Instead, the two-faced bail bondsman yields to Haller at every confrontation. He has a hand in the plot against Haller, facilitating the meeting of lawyer and client, but he removes himself from the toxicity as it grows.

Seasoned screen actor William H. Macy blends in to the fast-paced, bright California setting as Haller’s go-to guy, private investigator Frank Levin. Looking more hippie than sleuth, Levin ultimately seals his own fate when he trusts his partner’s “instincts” (arrogance and greed) above his own.  The role is paramount to the beleaguered Haller evaluating the cause & effect of his strategies, but unfortunately Macy’s screentime is limited. 

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Related items:
Roger Ebert’s Review of The Lincoln Lawyer
Lionsgate website for The Lincoln Lawyer

If you are interested in The Lincoln Lawyer you may also like:
Fracture
Beyond A Reasonable Doubt