MOVIE: DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE
STARRING: MEL GIBSON; VINCE VAUGHN; TORY KITTLES; DON JOHNSON; MICHAEL JAI WHITE
DIRECTED BY: S. CRAIG ZAHLER
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
There is a lot to unpack with S. Craig Zahler's newest film Dragged Across Concrete. It stars, of all people, Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn, two actors that were destined to make a buddy cop movie when they were famously photographed with their mouths agape at Oprah Winfrey's fantastic speech at the 2017 golden globes. When you are working with an actor as controversial and unforgivable as Mel Gibson, you at least know that the Lethal Weapon star has leaned in to his bad person reputation, playing characters that are shady, and rough around the edges. In this case, it works, and Dragged Across Concrete is more than just one actor, but he is more a part in the machine. This is a hard nosed cop drama, dealing in themes that are more relatable today than yesterday. After massive success with Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, S. Craig Zahler is cementing himself for his own brand of cinema. His work is often reminiscent of older 70's films, and Dragged Across Concrete is honest in its brutality, a slow burn, and consistently entertaining.
The opening scene involves officer Brett Ridgeman (Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn), two blue collar, veterans of the police force. They are sitting in a fire escape, awaiting a perp they are pursuing to come sneaking out the back. They stop their guy from leaving, applying extra pressure to his head and neck, but unbeknownst to them, they are being taped with the cell phone of a neighbor. Word gets out and Lt. Calvert (Don Johnson) has to place the two on suspension, leaving the two with nothing to do, their family medical bills to pay, engagement rings to buy, and mouths to feed. Their bitterness is palpable, specifically Ridgeman who has worked on the job for too long to be viewed as a racist officer who steps over the line.
With a runtime of 2 hrs. and 53 minutes, Dragged Across Concrete is a commitment, but that's not to say it is boring. The pace is enormously impressive, with a fantastic, sharp script by Zahler, that always kept me engaged with the characters, and focused on the task at hand. Even though they are suspended, Ridgeman follows a tip about a known drug dealer who goes by the name of Vogelmann (Thomas Kretschmann). The old veteran is looking to finally get his share of money, he wants the respect he feels he's earned. “Are you in or are you out”, Ridgeman asks his partner, but what they stumble upon is not a simple drug deal, it's a massive bank robbery, involving armored cars, high intensity weapons, and a risk to both of their lives. These two men have nothing to lose, a lot of money to gain, and want to take fate into their own hands.
On the other side of the two cops, are the bank robbers, who have hired Henry (Tory Kittles) and Biscuit (Michael Jai White) to be drivers. The two of them are recently out of prison, looking for a new start, but looking for a way to get rich quick. It is their stories that have a bit more depth, but as the narrative rolls along, you just know that Zahler is going to connect all of our characters in some way. Dragged Across Concrete reminded me of films such as William Friedkin's Sorcerer or recently The Standoff at Sparrow Creek. These are movies with a collection of rugged men, down on their luck, making choices that seem like the only way out, and result in violence that have you wondering if they have come to terms with their own death?
In the end, Dragged Across Concrete becomes a worthy investment of your time. And that's what it is, because I won't sugar coat it and say the runtime did not get to me. It moves at a slower pace, yet I was always engaged. I've never been the type to boycott movies because of one person or the next, at this point the movie has already been made, and oddly enough, Mel Gibson works well here. His performance is direct and his rapport with Vaughn makes for enjoyable banter. He's an asshole, but sometimes assholes make good movies. Dragged Across Concrete is another win for S. Craig Zahler, a director that continues to rise.
Written by: Leo Brady