Kind Of A Movie/Book Review—The Drop By Dennis Lehane

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I saw The Drop with Mrs. Rawson yesterday (The first time I’ve actually gone to a theater to see a film in awhile.) and I read the novel earlier in the month. So, I figured instead of writing two separate reviews, I’d offer up some dual, random impressions about both.

1) First off, Lehane wrote both the screenplay and the novel, which I think is cool. I also wonder how difficult the process was for Lehane? Did he write the book first or the screenplay? Did he write them simultaneously, or was the novel an afterthought? Either way, both were great pieces of storytelling.

2) In case you didn’t know, the screenplay and the novel are based off of Lehane’s excellent short story, “Animal Rescue” and appeared originally in the anthology, Boston Noir. It’s an excellent piece of writing in an anthology overflowing with excellent stories. Yeah, Boston Noir is still the best entry in Akashic’s “Noir” anthology series.

3) Yeah, I know most of the people reading this have already read the story.

4) What’s the deal with no one wanting to film in Boston? The novel takes place in Boston, but the movie takes place in Brooklyn. This seems to be happening more and more often. Example: Killing Them Softly (What killed that movie for me was the pointless political subtext and the subpar soundtrack. I mean, come on, is there anything more cliche than a couple of junkies shooting up to the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin”? But I digress.), the underrated adaptation of George V. Higgins, Cogan’s Trade, was filmed in New Orleans, but the novel is set in Boston. Is Massachusetts making it too expensive to film in Boston, or are filmmakers nixing the idea because the city is starting to look more and more like a high end WASP theme park as opposed to a city?

5) Love him or hate him, you have to acknowledge that Tom Hardy is the best actor of his generation. The man crafts his characters seamlessly, sinking into them, becoming them, and his accent work easily rivals Gary Oldman. Okay, maybe he doesn’t rival Oldman (Mostly because of his massive filmography), but Hardy’s pretty damn brilliant.

6) Bob Saginowski is a great character. Humble, emotionally stunted, a child wearing a mans skin. In the novel, I never once pictured him as Tom Hardy. I pictured him as a much taller man, sloped shoulders, trying to make himself smaller than he actually is. Hardy does the same, but let’s face it, the dude’s pretty short, so he didn’t really have to try very hard at making himself smaller.

7) I miss James Gandolfini.

8) Lehane typically lets his end of story plot twists slip within the first 20-to-50 pages of every novel he’s ever written. This isn’t a complaint by any means, because when I read Lehane, I’m along for the ride. I want to know about the people he’s writing about, their backstories and how they’ve ended up in their various lots in life, so I could give a shit about the ending (This is most novels and films for me, though.). Besides, almost every crime writer of Lehane’s generation—Pelecanos, Connelly, Lippman, etc.—all of them do it. Or maybe I’ve been reading them all so long I just know what to expect?

9) Matthias Schoenaerts was a great choice for the nut job antagonist, Eric Deeds. In the novel, I pictured Eric as being much shorter and slighter than Schoenaerts. Schoenaerts is at least 6’3, but in the novel, Deeds has the whole little man syndrome going on. You know, a short little shit with a huge chip on his shoulder.  But, fuck, Schoenaerts has got the crazy eye dread thing going on and he sent chills down my spine every time he was on the screen, so I brushed off the difference just like I brushed off Hardy as Saginowski. Deeds was my favorite character in the film.

10) The only American novelist better than Lehane at writing character is Stephen King, which is what I kind of found disheartening about the film, the lack of character building. Yeah, I know movies and novels are two completely different beasts and you can only pack so much into a 90 minute film. But where were the character motivations? This is my biggest complaint about the film. But then again, this is a complaint I have about movies in general: They’re either too long, or not long enough. In the case of The Drop, it needed more time than its 90 minute run time.

11) There’s a great scene in the novel when Deeds gets out of prison in South Carolina and he goes to visit his prison protector/rapist on the outside which really provides the most insight into Deeds. He comes over to pick up a kilo of heroin, the rapist screws him over on the deal, so Deed kills him along with two other people and burns the house down without recovering the smack. Stone fucking cold killer. By the way, Deeds was also my favorite character in the novel.

12) People who don’t like, or hurt dogs, scare me. It’s like there’s a piece of them is missing, which is also what made Deeds so goddamn menacing. He beat a puppy and left it for dead in a trash barrel without a second thought, that’s as cold as it comes in my book.

13) If I had it my way, I would put Ann Dowd in every film ever, I really love her even when she only has a few scenes in a film.

14) Bob Saginowski finding and taking in the dog is also what makes him so endearing. It was like when he found the puppy, he found the missing piece of himself. The piece which gave him a confidence and humanity he was somehow missing. By the way, here’s a small spoiler, Saginowski is twice the stone cold killer Deeds is. In fact, they’re pretty much the same person, the main difference being that Bob is way, way smarter than Deeds and far more humane.

15) “They never see you coming, do they?”

16) I really like Noomi Rapace, but I have to admit I didn’t really picture her as Nadia while reading the book. I pictured Nadia as being played by Naomi Watts. But then again, ever since 28 Grams and Eastern Promises, I tend to picture most 30-to-40-year-old female novel characters being played by Naomi Watts. Watts is who Mrs. Rawson would describe as my movie star “girlfriend”.

17) So, should you see The Drop? Yes, you should, because outside of Locke(another excellent Tom Hardy vehicle, and one I hope he receives a few award nominations for) and Snowpiercer, it’s my favorite film of 2014, and the type of film I wish was more widely released in U.S. theaters. It’s atmospheric, character driven (albeit not enough character.), beautifully filmed, and packed with stellar performances from the entire cast, but particularly from Hardy and Matthias Schoenaerts.

18) And should you read The Drop? Big yes on this one. Lehane is legitimately one of our best novelists, and not just best crime novelist, either. The novel has the feel of a Fawcett-Gold Medal pulp novel, but with outstanding character development. Because The Drop is a standalone novel (Outside of Mystic Riverand Shutter Island, it’s the only non-series novel Lehane’s written.), it’s a great stepping off point for new readers. Plus, it is very much a read in one sitting kind of book. Highly recommended.

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