Dragged Across Concrete

Review by Hannah Woodhead @goodjobliz

Directed by

S Craig Zahler

Starring

Jennifer Carpenter Mel Gibson Vince Vaughn

Anticipation.

Mel Gibson in a race relations drama...

Enjoyment.

Takes a while to get going, but when it does... oh boy.

In Retrospect.

Unrelenting, glib and actually quite intelligent beneath the guts and gore.

Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn play a pair of corrupt cops in S Craig Zahler’s ultraviolent latest.

Make no mistake: S Craig Zahler knows exactly what he’s doing. The casting of Aussie erstwhile exile Mel Gibson as a racist cop accused of police brutality in Dragged Across Concrete is no coincidence, as calculated as the casting of Don Johnson as his boss, who says, straight-faced and world-weary, early on in the film, “The entertainment industry needs villains.” Gibson may have been welcomed back into the Hollywood fold by virtue of his celebrated 2016 anti-war drama Hacksaw Ridge, but his turn in Zahler’s bleak new thriller makes Gibson’s past indiscretions rightfully hard to ignore.

Brett Ridgeman (Gibson) has failed to move with the times. He’s pushing 60 and has been pounding the pavement as a detective in the crime-ridden town of Bulwark for close to 40 years. It’s this refusal to understand the basic ways in which the world has changed since the ’70s which sees Ridgeman and his partner Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) suspended without pay after a video of them interrogating a suspect is leaked to the press.

Rather than reevaluate his worldview, Ridgeman decides to redress the imbalance in the world by robbing the robbers to support his disabled wife and bullied daughter. Lurasetti, meanwhile, has been working up the nerve to propose to his girlfriend Denise (Tattiawna Jones) and a quick payday might ease the financial strain. Unfortunately for our crooked cops, a tip from eccentric European mobster Friedrich (Udo Kier, who else) leads them down a one-way street to hell. Spoiler alert: crime doesn’t pay.

While Lethal Weapon and Miami Vice are obvious points of reference and the Zahler-composed soundtrack (ft. The O’Jays) gives everything a retro flavour, you can’t ignore the influence of Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon on an outstanding and stomach-churning heist sequence, and Zahler brings his usual stylised flair to proceedings, most noticeable in the exceptionally glib script.

For those who survived Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99 it won’t come as any surprise, but in Zahler’s riff on the cop genre, the juxtaposition between Shakespearean turn of phrase and heartless ultraviolence is particularly effective.

A strong supporting cast works to Zahler’s advantage too. Tory Kittles is excellent as recently released con Henry, who – much like Ridgeman – is just trying to provide for his family and gets in way over his head, while Michael Jai White has a memorable moment as his associate, Biscuit. Zahler alumni Jennifer Carpenter and Fred Melamed also turn up in small but cherishable roles, but it’s Gibson’s film to command, and he does a solid job as a distinctly uncharming relic from policing past. Vaughn has less to do this time around than he did in his barnstorming Brawl performance, other than eat a sandwich with strangely compelling intensity.

There’s a brutality and futility about the whole affair, and given its 160-minute runtime, it’s punishing in every sense of the word, particularly towards its few female characters. Yet it’s a fascinating reflection on the conservative white patriarchy that rules America, in particular how impotent its unique aggression feels in the present day. Zahler constantly dares us not to watch his films with a wry grin – but enduring this one pays dividends.

Published 18 Apr 2019

Tags: Dragged Across Concrete Mel Gibson S Craig Zahler Vince Vaughn

Anticipation.

Mel Gibson in a race relations drama...

Enjoyment.

Takes a while to get going, but when it does... oh boy.

In Retrospect.

Unrelenting, glib and actually quite intelligent beneath the guts and gore.

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