In wintry Brooklyn, N.Y., Bob Saginowsky (Tom Hardy) bartends at the working-class neighborhood tavern run by his cousin, Marv (James Gandolfini), which is used as a drop spot for money that's picked up "after hours" by the local Chechen mob.

When the dingy bar is robbed of $5,000 by two masked gunmen, the Chechans demand to know who is responsible -- and Bob doesn't have a clue. In the meantime, he discovers an abused puppy that's been dumped in a trash can. With the help of neighborly Nadia (Noomi Rapace), Bob nurses the tiny pitbull, which he names Rocco, back to health before a menacing psychopath, Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), claims the dog as his own.

And it all leads up to Super Bowl Sunday, meaning the biggest drop of the year.

Adapted by Dennis Lehane ("Mystic River," "Gone Baby Gone") from his own 20-page short story, "Animal Rescue," it's directed by Belgium's Michael R. Roskam ("Bullhead") as a gritty, neo-noir character study. Bob's a pensive cypher, rarely saying anything more than is absolutely necessary, particularly when questioned by Detective Torres (John Ortiz), who is curious about why he avoids taking Communion at the nearby Catholic church, where Bob regularly attends early-morning Mass. Slowly but surely, Hardy peels away the layers of his complicated character, revealing the subtext beneath that mild-mannered, soft-spoken exterior.

During 2014, Hardy has emerged as a force to be reckoned with a manner that's reminiscent of young Marlon Brando. Although unintelligible as Bane in "The Dark Knight Rises," he delivered a tour-de-force performance in "Locke."

Best known as Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy, Noomi Rapace serves as Bob's conflicted foil, while Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts ("Rust and Bone") is compellingly creepy. And, in his final screen role, James Gandolfini embodies cynical Cousin Marv, a conniving tough guy who's desperately swimming far beyond his depth.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Drop" is a suspenseful 7, revealing the sleazy underbelly of an urban crime drama.

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