Tag Archives: Michael Jai White

Dragged Across Concrete (2019) Review

Time: 159 Minutes
Cast:
Mel Gibson as Brett Ridgeman
Vince Vaughn as Anthony Lurasetti
Tory Kittles as Henry Johns
Michael Jai White as Biscuit
Jennifer Carpenter as Kelly Summer
Laurie Holden as Melanie Ridgeman
Fred Melamed as Mr. Edmington
Udo Kier as Friedrich
Thomas Kretschmann as Lorentz Vogelmann
Don Johnson as Chief Lt. Calvert
Director: S. Craig Zahler

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE follows two police detectives (Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn) who find themselves suspended when a video of their strong-arm tactics is leaked to the media. With little money and no options, the embittered policemen descend into the criminal underworld and find more than they wanted waiting in the shadows.

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I haven’t seen any of S. Craig Zahler’s other movies with Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, but I’ve definitely heard of them and have been meaning to get around to them for some time. I also heard about some controversial Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn movie that was being made, and it turns out it’s this movie, didn’t learn until recently that Zahler actually directed it. I heard it was some crime drama, but beyond that and the cast involved, I didn’t really know much about it. Dragged Across Concrete like its title suggests is a grim crime thriller, written, directed and performed exceptionally, and it’s one of my favourites of 2019 thus far.

Dragged Across Concrete boasts a sharply great script from director S. Craig Zahler, from the slowly paced storytelling to the effective dialogue. As I start, I think I should address the elephant in the room, or at least one of them. Ever since the premise of Dragged Across Concrete has been announced, people had been declaring this a MAGA pandering and all around bigoted movie. Given my very apparent praise for this movie already, you could probably already tell that I don’t agree with this. Almost everyone in the movie is not what we’d call ‘a good person’, and definitely not the recently suspended main characters, who are looking for ‘compensation’ after abusing their power as police officers. Sure the movie doesn’t exactly tell you that what they are doing is bad, but it certainly doesn’t endorse the main characters’ actions either, it just shows what they are and give some insight why they’re doing them. The characters are fully developed, fleshed out and feel real, especially the lead characters. People are going to have different opinions about the majority of them, but generally I think we can all agree that they are flawed yet human, with their own lives to lead that we get to have a glimpse at. They are still in the grey area of morality as they have both good and bad aspects to them. Really the only flat out ‘pure evil’ characters in the film that aren’t shown to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever are the dangerous masked men led by Thomas Kretschmann who appear, create chaos and kill people excessively. We don’t really get to learn about these particular characters or why they are how they are, but they are quite intimidating when they are on screen. It is a very bleak movie, the world these characters inhabit just feels unpleasant, the tone borders on nihilism, and as I said many of the characters are hard to root for. It’s generally easy for me to watch these kinds of movies (in fact I kind of love watching them) but I do know that some will find this to be a tough watch. There is one character who’s introduced, and their purpose is ultimately used for shock value (no spoilers), and while people will be split on that, I thought it worked well for the movie. Dragged Across Concrete is quite long at 2 hours 40 minutes, so you really need to be prepared for that. Although I was invested for much of the movie, I feel like it could’ve been cut out a good 10-15 minutes. Much of the movie takes its time, but it feels purposeful and not necessarily self indulgent. It builds up the personality of the characters and the world that they inhabit. Despite some of the more slower pacing throughout, it all comes together at the end to conclude very well.

Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are the lead characters, and they were both great in their roles. Now this is Mel Gibson, and while there’s certainly going to be some people who have issues with him even in this movie (understandably), I almost feel like his casting here was a deliberate choice. Gibson generally delivers and this is no exception, this is one of his best performances, if not his best. Although I haven’t seen Vaughn’s other dramatic work like in True Detective or Brawl in Cell Block 99 (another Zahler film), I can say that he’s a great dramatic actor and he was really good here. Gibson and Vaughn are very easy to buy as two cops who have been partnered with each other for a while, and their dynamic was really great. The rest of the supporting cast further grounds the movie with Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Don Johnson all doing well with their performances, no matter how brief they may be.

Again, this is the first movie I’m seeing from S. Craig Zahler, and I can say that he’s great at what he does, it’s a really great looking movie. I’ve heard that his other movies are considerably more violent, but he handles the violence well here. The violence flashes rather quickly on screen and doesn’t happen as much as you think it would be, but when it’s present it feels grisly and realistic, it’s not overplayed but the impact is still there nonetheless.

Dragged Across Concrete won’t work for everyone, it’s very long, it can be a hard watch, and it’s likely to provoke some people. However I thought that it was a generally well made movie, from the cast (particularly Gibson and Vaughn), to the direction and the story, it’s one of my favourite movies of 2019 thus far. I definitely want to see Zahler’s other movies now, he’s already proven with Dragged Across Concrete that he’s a really great filmmaker, and I’d love to see what he makes next.

Spawn (1997) Review

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Michael Jai White as Albert Simmons/Spawn
John Leguizamo as The Violator
Martin Sheen as Jason Wynn
Theresa Randle as Wanda Blake Simmons-Fitzgerald
Nicol Williamson as Cogliostro
D. B. Sweeney as Terry Fitzgerald
Director: Mark A.Z. Dippé

Covert government assassin Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) is killed after being double-crossed by his boss, Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen). Upon arriving in Hell, Simmons is offered an opportunity to return to Earth if he’s willing to lead an evil army. He accepts, and is reincarnated as a “Hellspawn” — a twisted, horribly disfigured version of his former self. However, Spawn serves as a force of good, much to the dismay of the Devil’s henchman, a wicked clown (John Leguizamo).

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I haven’t read any of the comic books of Spawn but from what I’ve seen of it looked very unique and has potential, definitely a character that could make for a bold and surprising movie. I remember going into the 1997 Spawn with an open mind, it wasn’t well received and probably wasn’t good but I was curious about it nonetheless. Literally all my hope for the movie went out the window the moment the opening credits scene started. While I haven’t seen Catwoman and Elektra, this is honestly so far the worst superhero movie I’ve ever seen, which is really saying a lot.

This movie has a lot going for it. An assassin who dies and returns from hell with superpowers with a badass suit, it seemed like it had all the potential for a weird and entertaining superhero movie. Despite everything going on though, this movie is just so dull and boring. Looking at the plot, there’s nothing particularly stupid conceptually, and there are far worse stories in other bad comic book movies. But there’s nothing particularly exciting or entertaining about it either. Spawn is a 96 minute long movie but fails so terribly at keeping your attention it feels like it is much longer. Despite the dark tone at times, it could get really stupid and cheesy, with some dumb one liners often from Spawn himself (not to mention they don’t really know how to use John Leguizamo’s The Violator in any effective way, whom just ends up being annoying). It really doesn’t suit the tone at all. Making Spawn a M/PG-13 movie would’ve made the movie more unique and ultimately better as it would’ve been able to go deeper and darker. But instead what we have is an incredibly dull and basic at best execution of a pretty interesting concept.

I haven’t seen Michael Jai White in much but he wasn’t really good in this movie as the lead character. Granted he isn’t given much to work with despite playing the titular character. Al Simmons/Spawn really isn’t that compelling as a character in this movie, which feels like a wasted opportunity. He just comes across as feeling like a rather generic wronged protagonist back for revenge. What deflated that aspect also is all the one liners that he has, and none of them work at all. John Leguizamo is the main villain, playing a character called The Violator who is a clown (and based off a character). Honestly, I’m having a hard time deciding whether his performance was good or bad. He was quite annoying but he is having fun and is absolutely embracing his character and is entertaining at times. What happens with the character at the end was not so great, as the film tries to use a lot of CGI with him, which as you’ll find out later is one of the worst aspects of the film. I don’t know why Martin Sheen, of all the actors out there, ended up in this movie, he gets nothing to do other than play some generic boring one dimensional secondary villain, he doesn’t really get any chance to shine whatsoever. There’s not much to say about the rest of the cast.

This film was directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé, who would later go on to direct some Garfield animated movies, his direction here is pretty bad. Outside his work as a director, he is known as a visual effects supervisor on films like Jurassic Park and The Hunt for Red October, which is ironic considering that Spawn has some of the worst special effects of a movie I’ve seen, let alone a superhero movie. Somehow Spawn had a budget of $40 million and I don’t see how that is possible at all. The opening credits sequence was the biggest of all red flags. It looks so 90s and amateurish, and I felt honestly embarrassed for the movie. And the effects on the rest of the film were just unbelievably awful, it was Mortal Kombat Annihilation levels of CGI. One of the stand out worst CGI moments was a sequence when Spawn was in hell, and everything looked bad with fake CG people, fake CG fire, fake CG room but particularly the fakest looking CGI devil figure in a movie, when he speaks the lip syncing is completely off. It’s incredibly embarrassing. The monster effects were often the worst CGI moments. Quite simply, this movie wasn’t made in the right time. I liked the actual design of Spawn, and if he had better CGI he could’ve looked quite badass. Unfortunately, the CGI on him isn’t good either, but it’s better than most of the effects in the movie. Some of the standard action scenes with him just shooting people or something along those lines were okay. It feels like this movie should’ve been more violent and darker but for whatever reason they didn’t make it that way so a lot of the general tone is all over the place.

So far, this is the worst superhero movie I’ve seen yet. With less than stellar acting, a boring story with potential, and some absolutely atrocious effects, it really blew me away with how awful it was. I think the biggest reason that this didn’t work is because it was released too early. Spawn has an insane world with some insane things, its about hell, is about someone returning from the dead with superpowers and it features a weird short fat clown as a villain and it would only really work if it could go full out with the craziness. Spawn however released during the worst period for comic book movies, with other bad comic book movies like Batman and Robin. Also the quality of CGI wasn’t quite at the level that was needed for this world, also making an R rated comic book movie at the time was risky. Despite this, there is now a Spawn movie finally coming out next year with Jamie Foxx and directed and written by Spawn creator Todd Macfarlane and I’m kind of curious about it. This character and his world has the potential to make for a unique movie in the genre. We are now in a time where superhero movies can be R rated and can push the boundaries (Logan, Deadpool) and also feature some insane ideas. Let’s hope that Macfarlane’s Spawn movie matches its potential, but it won’t need to try too hard to be supremely better than whatever the 1997 movie is supposed to be.