Review: Dragged Across Concrete
Dragged Across Concrete has already been flagged as a problematic film — it stars an extremely problematic actor Mel Gibson — but that does not stop S. Craig Zahler from making a film that is off-kilter, patient and brutal in all the right ways. Dragged moves at a much different clip that most vessels. It is not afraid to go off on radical tangents as it always comes crashing back to the main story with blunt force. A yarn that feels like it could happen as all the violence is anchored in real world consequences — yet the moments leading to the violence feel like David Mamet and Deadwood got into a bar brawl over a tab. Dragged manages to get idiosyncratic without losing sight of the prize, which feels odd to write out considering the mean nature of the film.
The other trick is that the story truly revolves around the character of Henry Johns, played by Tory Kittles. Fresh out of prison, Henry is going to make money by any means necessary and he must follow a crazy path and the storm ahead of him to achieve whatever victory. The film might be selling you a Vince Vaughn-Mel Gibson vehicle but that lie is what is going to make this film sing many years from now. Zahler is doing some truly gnarly storytelling here, again unafraid to veer off into what seems to be the unknown, but sure enough always finding purchase in its oddball poetry.
Brett Ridgeman and Anthony Lurasetti (Mel and Vince) are suspended for using excessive force during a routine drug bust. Making matters worse is the amount of hits the video of the bust receives after it's uploaded by a random citizen. They have zero income coming in and Brett says to his wife in so many words: we are not going to speak about where this money I’m going to bring in comes from. He decides to rob a criminal with a secret address, who may be hauling large chunks of cash. It's a simple, but of course, high risk, high reward. He pulls in a reluctant Anthony to the caper, who is also desperate for money because he wants to settle down with the love of his life. It's in the following stake-out scenes that I knew this motion picture truly did not care for order or formality. It lingers on meals being eaten way too slowly for Mel’s taste and odd discourse about percentages, which becomes a running gag throughout. Dialogue rattles around with dangerous rhythms, often poisonous yet so true to characters that you fall into its lunacy.
Dragged has violence with exaggerated punctuation (I think Zahler hates fingers) that will make you squirm in your seat, so heads up to both gore hounds and those who hate film violence. Basically if you like intestines to stay inside of one's body, dodge this sledgehammer of a film at all cost. The performers in this film are all adding something good to Zahler’s monster. Mel’s single-tone, Eeyore-like delivery works here. He also bounces off of Vaughn perfectly as we mainly stick with them buddy cop style for the majority of the film. And, Jesus, just wait until you guys see what Jennifer Carpenter brings to the table. While the basic drive of the film is this desperate robbery, please remember, focus on the true weight of the story: Tory Kittles. His solid character work makes Henry a memorable note in this song of madness.
Dragged Across Concrete is another winner from S. Craig Zahler, the other being the profound Bone Tomahawk. While I like Brawl in Cell Block 99, I find Bone and Dragged to be more dreamy with its wordplay. It really is a kick in the teeth at times with imagery, but especially language. What seems out place will always matter in the end, in that you are reminded of the patience the film actually harnesses. People will write this thing off, I imagine. I can only tell you what I saw, and what I saw was an impeccably-made film loaded with horrible people who managed to be poetic and eloquent in their squalor regardless. This monster of a film truly fascinated me with its unique gait and deserves a fair shake.