The Movie Waffler London Film Festival 2018 Review - DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE | The Movie Waffler

London Film Festival 2018 Review - DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE

dragged across concrete review
Once two overzealous cops get suspended from the force, they must delve into the criminal underworld to get their just due.

Review by Musanna Ahmed

Directed by: S. Craig Zahler

Starring: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Don Jphnson, Udo Kier, Thomas Kretschman, Michael Jai White

dragged across concrete poster

Dragged Across Concrete is a right-wing fantasy. It's kind of refreshing, to be honest. Generally, American cinema is occupied by left-leaning filmmakers whose ideologies can easily be interpreted - think about how many movies have already been described as a reaction to the Trump administration. Then there's S. Craig Zahler, openly expressing conservatism in his films, ensuring that the cinemas aren't entirely an echo chamber of liberal ideas. With Dragged Across Concrete he bashes you over the head with right wing talking points but, basically, this crime drama is solid and works well because of its fully realised characters and plot, and that's what really matters.

Zahler’s third film stars previous collaborator Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson as two old-school cops, named Anthony Lurasetti and Brett Ridgeman respectively, who get suspended after strong-arming a Hispanic drug dealer, while unknowingly being recorded by a neighbour. The video clip of their forceful tactics on a minority person circulates the whole media cycle and they’re out of the job for six weeks. With the need to support their families and themselves, they decide to make money by entering the criminal underworld, enticed by the alluring financial prospects. They’re aware of a gang of heavily armed masked men, led by European criminal Lorentz Vogelmann (Thomas Krestchmann), who are planning to rob a bank for a few million.

dragged across concrete review

Henry Johns (Tory Kittles) has recently been released from prison and hopes to spend more time at home with his mother and young brother. His associate, Biscuit (Michael Jai White), contacts him about a potential heist job, which we soon learn is the one for Vogelmann’s team. Johns and Biscuit tag along as the getaway drivers while the masked men, whom we never see, serve as the muscle. Before we even get to the heist, which begins approximately half way through the 159 minute feature, we see our cops’ daily lives affected in-depth because that’s what this filmmaker likes to do - he writes complete narrative arcs for his characters so we have very few, if any, questions about the events that took place before or will take place after the end of the film. The complete world of the film existing only from the first frame to the last second is something to really be appreciated, when so many establish worlds with unclear rules and fuzzy logic.

But any questions about these characters' personal lives are answered in two ways: one is that Zahler is very committed to depicting his characters’ personal and professional lives and the other is his smart writing of conversations that fill in the gaps of history without coming off as heavy exposition. Beginning with the cops patiently waiting to do the drug bust, the total lack of ambiguity in the story's origins and proceedings helps us get to know exactly who these people are and what they do. For example, we obviously know the cops have to return home and explain to their families that they're out of a job, and not only do we see this, but we see how those family members live their own lives. Ridgeman's daughter gets a hot cup of coffee thrown at her face on her way home, by a cycling African-American boy, and her parents lament how it's the fifth time in two years that she's been attacked by black people, hence driving their racist streak. Brett’s wife Melanie (Laurie Holden), an ex-cop who retired from the force following a severe injury, has to walk with a crutch as she suffers from MS. Relaying the family's financial concerns, she speaks to her husband about being offered a security job which he shoots down due to the risk of her health and states that he'll take care of the family, thus marking his commitment to get money by any means possible.

dragged across concrete review

Zahler proves again to be a very skilled writer with shrewd dialogue that we can probably coin Zahler-esque now because it's highly cinematic ("Move like you're on fast-forward" is one of my favourite lines here) without sounding like an imitation of writers in a similar vein such as Quentin Tarantino and Elmore Leonard. Though, as aforementioned, this time he's much more explicit in airing his grievances with issues around liberalism and masculinity. When Lt. Calvert (Don Johnson) informs the two men of their suspension, he passive-aggressively remarks that these days the police must be careful in how they treat those who supply drugs to kids (referring to the Hispanic drug gang) as they could be considered "intolerant" just because the dealers are of an ethnic minority. Lusaretti speaks his mind about how "perceived intolerance is challenged by actual intolerance." A conversation between the two protagonists at a café comments on the blurred lines of gender these days. If all of this sounds too on-the-nose, it very much is.

Let's say the politics don’t bother you, so, in turn, the self-indulgent monologues aren’t an issue. Well, on a more basic level of filmmaking, the dialogue slightly falters when it goes on for too long at times. Zahler loves, loves, loves conversations, and writes them even in the heat of the action, which really undercuts the tension of these moments. Ultimately, all the talking serves a purpose, whether it’s in the character study or the social commentary, so more often than not it’s engaging. It must be, because a crime film that runs over two and half hours, featuring a lot of talking, doesn’t sell the film very well. Really, Dragged Across Concrete is highly absorbing. The divinely realised characters permanently draw your attention and the brutal violence keeps you at the edge of your seat, even at the measured pace the film takes to go from point to point, because the characters are complex and unpredictable, so you can only guess how the whole ordeal will fare for each individual no matter how good they are with a gun.

dragged across concrete review

Overall, Dragged Across Concrete is a well-acted, gripping crime saga that will be best appreciated by those who enjoyed Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, with the understanding of the filmmaker’s thorough narrative arcs (and how they’re paced), his penchant for Peckinpah-esque violence, and his focus on white collar, white American men who are victims of the BAME individuals around them as well as enemies of progressive politics. Though I previously wrote that a dissenting voice is welcome in the usually liberal world of cinema, I fully acknowledge that a film like this can be used to empower some of the most dangerous people in America (an alt-right site awarded Brawl 4.5 Swastikas out of 5), so I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it to audiences outside of those who know what they’re getting.

The filmmaker recently stated that 60% of the audience will like Dragged Across Concrete, 20% will be bored, 20% will be find it disgusting, offensive, racist trash. I wonder which American demographic research he undertook to predict these statistics?