When S. Craig Zahler burst onto the scene with Bone Tomahawk in 2015, he was a fresh new voice in brutal action and ultra-violence. His follow-up, Brawl in Cell Block 99 even acted as a career rejuvenator for known funny-man Vince Vaughn. Now back with his third film Dragged Across Concrete, Zahler has once again picked an actor for redemption: Mel Gibson.
Almost as if the man wasn’t disgraced enough after infamous anti-Semitic rants, battery charges and repeated use of the N-word, Zahler here paints Gibson as essentially an alternate version of himself. Part leading man in action and part absolute asshole, here he plays Brett Ridgeman, a brutal cop gone bust after he and his partner Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) are caught on camera using excessive force on a suspected drug dealer and are suspended from work without pay.
In an ideal world, the film would have ended here. Good, suspend them. We know what happens when cops use excessive force on those they restrain. Instead we get to ordeal a 158-minute run-time of Ridgeman and Lurasetti attempting to get their lives back on track by nothing other than robbing robbers. Yes, the cops decide to delve deep into the criminal underworld to steal enough money to support the progress in their lives, all the while making absolutely no personal development in the process.
Sympathy is dredged from the deep for these rogue cops; poor Lurasetti doesn’t think his girlfriend will accept his marriage proposal if he’s out of work and Ridgeman’s wife Melanie (Laurie Holden) has MS and his daughter gets soda chucked at her a few times by mean kids and suddenly Ridgeman is acutely aware of what ‘assault’ is – wasn’t that when the pair were stepping on the man’s neck that got them suspended in the first place.
The film trudges along at the most laborious pace possible, switching between the lives of Ridgeman and Lurasetti and another man, Henry (Tory Kittles), who is recently out of jail and trying to get his life back on track at any cost. It becomes clear that the men’s lives will at some point cross, but the meandering nature of the films long, drawn-out scenes of next to nothing make this puzzle hard to piece together, that’s if you even make it that far.
Conversations offer little insight, development or resolution to the lives of Ridgeman and Lurasetti, instead, terrible one-liners, racist and misogynistic rhetoric line the pockets of this crime drama. It’s a damningly provoking film, but rather than being one that seems to use irony or the extreme to provide commentary, its like Zahler is literally prodding you to bite the obvious bait dangling in front of you. Now that the film has enjoyed a number of months to find its audience prior to this UK DVD release, a quick Google search finds that the film has become a quick success on message boards that love its ‘anti-PC’ and ‘fuck libtards’ approach which is certainly a concerning matter.
Thankfully, Zahler’s signature violence and grindhouse bloodshed do make a few appearances, but not nearly to the level of his previous work. These moments at least offer some alleviation from the laborious misery that is the rest of the film, but something about that pulpy splatter nature of his filmography is missing. One might say that this is simply a maturation on Zahler’s part but comes across as nothing more than a breakout star given too much money and time to self-indulge.
Without the inclusion of Gibson, perhaps this would have been a different film that explored police brutality from the angle of the perpetrators and its consequences. But with the Gibson-led Dragged Across Concrete, it’s difficult to separate art from artist when the two are clearly so intentionally selected for this narrative.
Dir: S. Craig Zahler
Scr: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Don Johnson
Prd: Dean Buchanan, Shafin Diamond, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Mike Rowe, Ben Ruffman, Levi Sheck
DOP: Benji Bakshi
Music: Jeff Herriott, The O’Jays, S. Craig Zahler
Run time: 158 minutes
Dragged Across Concrete is out on Blu-Ray & DVD on August 19th and is available on Digital now.