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Review – The Drop (15) [2014]

The Drop - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

  • Michael R. Roskam – Bullhead

Cast:

Music Composer:

The engine to every story/film is its characters. Without characters, viewers have no means of entering the story and so cannot enjoy the story. But do characters have to be likeable for viewers to enjoy the story? Rust And Bone and The Wolf Of Wall Street demonstrated that characters could be repugnant, yet the story/film could still be enjoyed. Michael R. Roskam’s The Drop adds further evidence to this theory.

Bob (Tom Hardy) with his boss and cousin, Marv (James Gandolfini, in his final role before his death) outside the back of Cousin Marv's, listening to their Chechen gangster boss.

Bob (Tom Hardy) with his boss and cousin, Marv (James Gandolfini, in his final role before his death) outside the back of Cousin Marv’s, listening to their Chechen gangster boss.

The Drop is based on the short story Animal Rescue by Dennis Lehane. The film is about two intertwining stories that take place in a poor part of Brooklyn, New York. Bob (Tom Hardy) is a bartender who works for his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) at the latter’s former bar. Cousin Marv, as the bar is called (even though Marv no longer owns it), is a drop box for local gangsters to put brown envelopes of cash into. However, one night, the bar is robbed by gunmen and Marv’s boss, a Chechen gangster called Chovka (Michael Aranov), wants to know where his money has gone. Or else.

At the same time, Bob walks home from the bar one night, only to overhear a dog whimpering in the dustbin of a neighbour, Nadia (Noomi Rapace). Bob opens the bin to find a maltreated pit-bull puppy in it. Between him and Nadia, they take care of the puppy. Nevertheless, one day when Bob is playing with the dog in the park, the notorious Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) finds him and tells him that the dog belongs to him. Bob insists that he is not giving up the dog, and that is when Eric tells him that if he does not pay him $10,000 by the next day for the dog, he promises to kill him, maltreat the puppy again, and do worse to Nadia.

Bob with Nadia (Noomi Rapace), buying stuff for the pitbull puppy, Rocco.

Bob with Nadia (Noomi Rapace), buying stuff for the pitbull puppy, Rocco.

The Drop is a slow-burning, increasingly tense thriller. The film feels less like a Hollywood production and more like a British one due to the gloomy mood throughout the movie’s 106-minute running time. Indeed, if it weren’t for the accents and the design of the houses, one might have mistaken it for a British production due to the constant grim, grey sky and the run down state of the homes in the area. Such features are typical of British productions like Harry Brown, Tyrannosaur and the Channel 4 TV series Top Boy, and enable viewers to feel the brooding atmosphere of a place in which something nasty is going to happen.

One senses that something nasty is going to happen because the area in which The Drop is located in is full of nasty people, ready to do (and cover up) their dirty work. The nasty people are all brought to life vividly by a cast with less than a handful of redemptive features between them. Tom Hardy commands a strong performance in the central role. He personifies the brooding atmosphere of the film with his perpetual frown, and few actors have Hardy’s rare ability to convey so much with just a bland stare.

Of the rest of the cast, Noomi Rapace does a good job with Nadia, even if she does not have a lot to work with other than being low on confidence and insecure. Similarly, Matthias Schoenaerts plays well (and with worrying realism) in his familiar role as a scum bug. At least in Rust And Bone, Schoenaerts’ character had one redemptive feature. In The Drop, his character has none! Yet, none of the characters are as ostensibly interesting as the one performed by James Gandolfini in his final role. Gandolfini’s character, Marv, may not be a nice person. But he is the most layered and complex character in the film and this makes viewers want to see more of him/Gandolfini as, arguably, it is Marv that makes the movie tick.

Nadia, looking good but ditressed with Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) at Cousin Marv's.

Nadia, looking good but ditressed with Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) at Cousin Marv’s.

The setting and the acting are top-notch in The Drop. However, other than those (very important) elements, the film does not have much else to ride on. The plot raises several questions that go unanswered, which is annoying because the questions do not seem especially difficult to answer. Additionally, some of the key moments in the movie take place off-screen, which is again annoying. There is a rule in art: show, don’t tell. That The Drop ignores this rule is its major hindrance as otherwise it is a very solid film.

Over-all, The Drop consists of most things that one could want from a slow-burning thriller. For certain, it has some plot holes that could have been handled better. Nevertheless, the dismal and threatening atmosphere of the film; the gradual rise in tension; and the fine acting of the cast all make the movie thoroughly worthwhile and enjoyable. Thus, The Drop illustrates once more that a film with dislikeable characters can still be enjoyed.

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Review – Prometheus 3D (15) [2012]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

With the exception of American Gangster, the last decade has been a poor one in terms of quality films for Ridley Scott, the three-time academy award nominated director/producer. Kingdom of Heaven, Body of Lies and Robin Hood are just three of many terrible movies that he’s created, even if he has made lots of money from them. Prometheus continues this downward trend, even though it is a return to the theme of his highly successful revolutionary 1979 movie Alien.

Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) with the captain of the Prometheus vessel, Janek (Idris Elba).

Prometheus is the prequel to Alien. In 2089, archaeologist love-birds Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Sherlock Holmes II: A Game of Shadows, The Drop) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green – Brooklyn’s Finest, Devil, Black Dog, Red Dog) discover a star map among several unconnected ancient civilisations. Believing that they can discover the origins of humanity, they join a crew on the space-vessel Prometheus bound for the moon where they hope to unearth the answers.

Piloted by David (Michael Fassbender – X-Men: First Class, Shame, 12 Years A Slave), a haughty human-looking android with supreme amounts of knowledge, the spaceship arrives at their destination. After being given a telegrammed video by the elderly Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce – The Hurt Locker, The King’s Speech, Iron Man III), the patron of the trillion-dollar expedition, and a speech by Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron – Monster, The Road, Snow White and the Huntsman), a Weyland Corporation employee sent to monitor the mission, the crew set off to investigate the nearby mysterious site.

They are told to avoid contact with any unknown substances. But with some people falling behind, and other members of the crew deceiving others, the humans do come into with the unknown substances. And to dire consequences.

Charlie, Elizabeth and David exploring the cave to find the origins of humanity. Will the statue in the background give them their answers?

The premise on which Prometheus is based is not a bad one and there are some good, refreshingly 1980s-style sci-fi horror moments to keep one in suspense. In 1979, these were innovative, but now the Alien vs. Predator genre has become so abysmally cliché that all of the horror in Prometheus looks samey and unoriginal.

And as is typical of the above-mentioned genres, little of Prometheus’ dialogue or plot makes any sense. (Even Ridley Scott has admitted that the movie leaves some questions unanswered, which suggests that tying up loose ends was not half as relevant to him as making a fortune.) The very beginning of the film (which I have not mentioned) bears no relevance to the rest of the film; with the exceptions of Elizabeth and Charlie, the reasons and motives of the various crew members aboard the Prometheus expedition are unclear or not mentioned at all; and the very end of the movie is as biologically possible as mating a bear with a piranha and producing a wolf.

Worse, Prometheus gives us virtually no insight into the origins of Alien. For a movie that is a prequel to the series, it is inexcusable. Imagine if Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins had not explained the origins of Batman? What would have been the point in it? The same questions must be asked here.

As Prometheus’ storyline nosedives, the cast do the same. All of the actors have poorly-explained, two-dimensional characters and none of them have any chemistry between them on set. They create such little empathy that viewers are unlikely to care when they start to drop off. Even Noomi Rapace, who was brilliant as Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish versions of The Girl With The Dragon series (aka The Millennium saga), struggles in Prometheus to keep audiences interested (despite spending a percentage of the movie running around wearing not much more than a tankini). Only Michael Fassbender, as the emotionless and enigmatic robot, has the ability to maintain viewer’s concentration. But Fassbender’s character has too many holes to be plausible.

Wounded, Elizabeth is limping round the Prometheus vessel in little clothing to find some help.

Actors and characters aside, at least Prometheus has some decent sci-fi-style special effects. They are not spell-binding, though, because one has seen similar CGIs in God knows how many other movies in the genre before. What is a pity though is that the 3D is so pathetic. For a movie like Prometheus, there should have been more effort put into the 3D aspect of the film to make it worthwhile.

All-in-all, Prometheus is another appalling film to add to Ridley Scott’s recent movie-making collection. Almost nothing works in the film, from the storyline to the cast to the 3D. For a director/producer of Scott’s capacity, whose diverse range of films over the years have been of high quality, it is simply not good enough.

(PS. Read my review of 2014’s Exodus: Gods And King for more on Ridley Scott.)

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