Craig Zahler does it again! This clickbait title should be plastered all over the web right now. Craig first amazed us with his debut horror The Bone Tomahawk and continued his style of uncompromising, atmospheric movies with Brawl in Cell Block 99. You can feel that gritty seventies vibe just from the titles of these movies that sound like one of those strange exploitation flicks that you run into from time to time. Dragged Across Concrete sounds so visceral that you can’t help but wonder what kind of movie is this? Well, this is a slow-burning crime drama, without those usual gimmicks that writers and directors usually use to get that wow feeling with the audiences. It has that neo-noir vibe that Zahler perfected in his last movie and is a brutal and uncompromising experience that will refresh the fuck out of you.
Usually, movies are a guided experience, following age-old formulas found in stories from the dawn of time to now. We are so used to this format that I kept expecting the movie to take those turns, especially because the tension was rising constantly, but apart from a couple of scenes, the movie remains spinning at about 75 RPMs on the outside. On the inside, everything is just bubbling with energy. Moral dilemmas, real problems and real people make things so extremely complicated and morally ambiguous that it’s hard to watch this type of movie with a typical movie-going mindset. Zahler opted for reality here, but let’s dive into the story a bit deeper before we get carried away.
After I finished watching Dragged Across Concrete, I just thought: this is how it would really play out… That feeling of uncurated experience, almost like a documentary crew was filming these people while they were in the middle of these things, is priceless. Especially when you consider the sheer number of crappy, formulaic movies about cops and robbers and other shit that’s going on here. And the cast… Over-experienced Mel Gibson led the way and if you’re surprised to see him in a movie like this, I recommend that you check out Get The Gringo, his 2012 return to the genre. Vince Vaughn was one of those actors that I considered douchy good, he was good in a couple of movies but I had trouble placing him and his acting abilities on a scale. However, after seeing the second season of True Detective, Brawl in Cell Block 99 and perhaps one of his best movies Return to Paradise from 1998, I really changed my opinion and he’s now one of those actors that I can count on. Michael Jai White, better known for his martial arts skills was also great along with a breakout star of this movie Tory Kittles. He was simply phenomenal with his subdued and very engaging performance and that’s not easy to pull off among such actors.
Brett Ridgeman and Anthony Lurasetti are two cops working in a huge city riddled with crime. They have been doing this job for a long time and they are good at it, although they are having trouble transitioning into this new society that’s trying to gentrify crime and treat it as something else. This would be cool if they were willing to do this across the board, but when it comes to certain things, no one wants to question them… Ridgeman, almost 60 years old, is living with his wife and daughter in a really rough neighborhood, while Lurasetti is still hanging on, at least when it comes to money. After they are suspended for use of excessive force, Ridgeman decides it’s time for him to cash out and this starts a series of events that will change their lives forever.
Lack of music, beautiful cinematography and perfectly framed scenes are all the things that are setting the mood for this masterpiece. This is the thing with Zahler, he develops his characters and then sets them in motion in his slow-burners. The only problem with this is that you have to have everything spot on, because if something is off, the movie will not be dragging across concrete, but just dragging. Luckily, they pulled it off here, but sometimes I feel the movie could have benefited from more gimmicks, those little things in the script that are so telling that you can’t help but feel emotions and be drawn in. Like the anchovies thing and the percentages thing, like that, but somehow tying together the visuals, storyline and characters. It feels like they managed to get to about 86% of the scale which is more than enough. So there you go, check out this masterpiece and if you liked it, be sure to check out Zahler’s other movies because they are just as good.
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Writer: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Michael Jai White, Tory Kittles, Thomas Kretschmann, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Don Johnson
Imdb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6491178/