Time: 159 Minutes
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.
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.