VOD film review: Dragged Across Concrete
James R | On 27, Aug 2019
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn
By now, any viewers of films by S. Craig Zahler know what to expect: questionable characters doing dubious things, with a smattering of extreme violence thrown in. But there’s another thing that has remained consistent throughout his small but distinctive oeuvre: a grisly, compelling quality that taps into hardboiled genre traditions with a no-nonsense style.
Zahler, not one to avoid controversy, casts Mel Gibson as Brett, a detective whose prejudice ways get him and his partner, Anthony (Vince Vaughn), suspended from police duty. And so they go off book to find the money they feel they deserve, and their families need, and end up in more trouble than they bargained for. To say that the lead characters aren’t very likeable is an understatement, and while Zahler does work to give each of the lead men a motivation that’s provocatively sympathetic, the side effect is that the movie ends up seeming like it endorses their world views – a problem that really becomes an issue when the plot is interrupted to witness the cruel treatment of a mother played by Jennifer Carpenter, whose subplot seems like it’s out of a different move and is unpleasant to watch without any clear reason behind it.
But if this is Zahler’s least effective film to date, compared to the shocking Western Bone Tomahawk and the lean (and more graphic) Brawl in Cell Block 99, Dragged Across Concrete nonetheless retains his knack for crafting absorbing scenes and weaving an atmosphere that’s undoubtedly immersive. For a director famed for his extreme moments, he’s a master at slowly building tension – and dread – with standout sequences typically involving the men sitting around on a stakeout virtually filmed in real-time. Gibson, for what’s it worth, still has the charisma evident before his personal behaviour led to a deserved fall from grace, while Vaughn, who was excellent in Brawl…, is once again convincing as the reluctant but persuadable sidekick.
Driving up to a suitably gritty conclusion that reinforces the lack of trust these characters have in the world and each other – a lack of trust that is fittingly their own undoing – the result is a gripping, slow-burn crime flick, but one that leaves you wanting a shower afterwards, and not entirely in a good way.