Tom Hardy’s performance in The Drop is a shining example of why he is one of the greatest working actors of today. He plays Bob, a Brooklyn bartender at his cousin Marv’s bar. Marv sold out the bar to the Chechen mob, and they use the place as a “drop bar” to stash cash. Despite his brawny tough-guy appearance, Bob is a quiet and introverted type. He gets his work done and looks the other way when it comes to the mob. Bob is also fairly dim-witted. Tom Hardy expressed that much of his character inspiration was based off of Of Mice and Men’s Lennie, and traces of that influence can be seen through his manner of speaking. The way Tom Hardy conveys his timidity and slowness seems to mask something that is constantly simmering underneath him. The slow but steady build-up of his character’s journey leads to a shocking yet inevitable reveal of just what lies beneath when you uncover that mask.
“He’s filled with pain and he wants to belong. You hear about psychopaths bonding with cartoon characters, because they aren’t real. I always thought of him as being like that until he meets that dog; then he starts to care for something else, and it throws him.” Tom Hardy remarked on his character in a Rolling Stone interview. Bob discovers a puppy in the trash, and a local neighborhood woman Nadia urges him to take it. Bob develops a fondness for Nadia and the dog, and his soft-hearted side is unleashed. But Bob becomes quick to anger to defend the ones he now cares for. Matthias Schoenaerts plays a local hoodlum Eric Deeds who claims the puppy is his. He begins harassing Bob and Nadia, who happens to be his ex-girlfriend. Deeds has the reputation for being crazy and for killing another local kid, Glory Days. “People like me come along when you’re not looking.” Deeds threatens Bob. But the text is not only speaking of Deeds, but of Bob. As the events of the film unfold, we realize that Bob is going to be the person who comes along when others are not looking. This is the essential crux of his character.
Bob’s soft and gentle demeanor, conveyed through the caring for the puppy and kindness to Nadia, as well as the doltish timbre of his dialogue, completely unravels in the film’s climax. The tension that has seemed to simmer beneath him brims to the surface. Deeds, Nadia and Bob are alone in the bar after a football party. Deeds threatens Bob to open the safe and give him the money. To stall him, Bob begins telling a long winded story about his cousin Marv. Deeds does not chalk this up to Bob knowingly stalling him, but instead the usual simpleminded speak that one gets accustomed to when interacting with Bob. But the story takes a turn as Bob confesses the darkest thing the audience has ever heard him say.
Bob reveals that he was the one that killed Glory Days, he knows that Eric has been bluffing all this time. “I shot him in the face, twice. Then I wrapped his head in a towel, and I stabbed him in the chest in his heart, so he would bleed out, and I put him in my bathtub and watched him drain. Then I put him in an oil tank with laundry detergent and lye, and I sealed it back up.” It’s quite shocking to hear this coming from Bob, his true self has come along without us even looking for it. Then, Bob whips out a gun and shoots Deeds.
In the ending scenes, we see Bob returning to his usual quiet and simple-minded demeanor when being questioned by the mob and the cops. Bob denies knowing anything, he laughs it off to the cop that Deeds disappearing is just how the neighborhood is. The cop starts to leave, but he hesitates and leans over to whisper to Bob, “No one ever sees you coming, do they Bob?” The characters in Bob’s world constantly underestimate him, shrugging off his shyness and slowness. They write Bob off as a harmless dolt. As does the audience throughout the film. Though there is a sneaking suspicion that something lies beneath, it is still surprising to hear the dark brutality of Bob’s past. This is a past that Bob is not proud of, one that became unwittingly unleashed. In one of the voiceovers Bob reflects, “There are some sins that you commit that you can’t come back from, you know, no matter how hard you try. You just can’t.” The hauntings of his dark past was what was constantly swimming inside of him.
Tom Hardy is able to subtly portray the imperceptible evolution of his character. Hardy allows the audience to underestimate Bob as the characters around him do, but also give us subtle clues that there is more to him than meets the eye. All we have to do is look.