Friday, January 20, 2017

Mob Movie Churches -- The Drop

The Drop (2014)

When I was teaching a high school Sunday School class, the topic of church discipline came up. One student said she didn't think anyone should ever be kicked out of church. I asked, "What if someone was selling drugs to kids or was a child molester?" She really didn't want to make any exceptions.

I believe the leadership of a church should be good shepherds who protect the sheep from dangerous wolves, but there is something very appealing about the church being a place where everyone can come and, for a time at least, ignore their differences and worship God together.
That's what I like in about St. Dominic's Church in The Drop.

There's a bartender named Bob (played by Tom Hardy) who regularly goes to Mass at the church. The bar where he works (managed by James Gandolfini) is a front for the mob, and he certainly has a shady past (and present). There's also a policeman, Detective Torres (played by John Ortiz), who regularly attends the church. The cop isn't there to keep his eye on Bob; it's his home church. The church is a cops and robbers safe zone.

Torres likes the church because they "do Mass right." He likes that there are no folk singers, and things are done the old fashioned way (The service does seem to be in English, rather than Latin, because we hear the Lord's Prayer recited. Torres dreads the church being closed down and turned into "condos with stained glass."

Bob goes to Mass frequently; the priest knows him by name and lets him in early. Bob likes a statue in the church, of St. Rocco with a dog (a dog is key in the film's plot), but Bob doesn't take communion. Ever. Detective Torres asks Bob that, but Bob is evasive.

Bob is certainly struggling with his conscience. He certainly isn't getting a message of cheap grace from the church, but he is hearing about true grace. At one point, we hear Bob's inner dialogue, and he says this: "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. It's like the devil is waiting for your body to quit. Because he knows, he knows that he already owns your soul. And then I think maybe there's no devil. You die... and God, he says, 'Nah, nah you can't come in. You have to leave now. You have to leave and go away, and you have to be alone. You have to be alone forever.'"

I'm not sure exactly what Biblical and theological teaching Bob is getting at St. Dominic's. But he certainly has an understanding of hell.

Toward the end of the film, we learn that St. Dominic's is indeed closing, and Detective Torres asks Bob if he's going to the final service. Though the detective is talking to Bob as part of his job, in the midst of an investigation, he seems to be asking a fellow congregant a genuine question. St. Dom's is going to be turned into condos with stained glass.

I'm just here to review the church in the film. I'm not here to tell you that The Drop is a suspenseful crime thriller with a moving performance by Tom Hardy, and James Gandolfini's  last performance, and a terrific screenplay by Dennis Lehane based on his own short story. I'm just here to give the film's church, St. Dominic's, three steeples.

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