Let’s get dirty.
Dragged Across Concrete is S. Craig Zahler’s new one that seems designed to provoke controversy. We follow two brutal cops Brett (Mel Gibson) and Anthony (Vince Vaughn) who find themselves in dire financial straits after being suspended for excessive force. As they feel they have been wronged, they begin planning a robbery against an out-of-town criminal who is planning their own master heist.
Zahler has been accused of filtering in alt-right ideology into his films, and I suppose we could run with that argument. A lot of the humor in this film could only be considered edgy by men who spend way too much time on the internet. Sure, it is anti-PC—notice how no one really cares? The film sports an above average rating on IMDB and RT—guess so much for the evil biased film reviewer or whatever. I’m harping on this because it isn’t that the humor isn’t PC that makes it fall flat at a lot of points—it’s that the jokes are the same crap I have seen as great right punchlines for the past decade.
There was a bit of hubbub when the film was announced—the idea of sympathizing with abusive cops seemed ill-timed, but I think a lot of folks jumped to conclusions too quickly. Oddly, you will notice I think both sides of our political spectrum have this movie wrong.
Are we supposed to root for our idiot duo? I’m not sure. Everyone kind of sucks in this universe (well, the men anyway), so it is hard to find much to grab onto. Our side characters who are women are under-written and need to have the leads intervene on their behest (usually in the form of a savior). Did you ever see The Shield? This is similar in a lot of ways.
Our cross-running story follows Henry (Tory Kittles) who has just been paroled and is pulled back into crime to help his friend Biscuit (Michael Jai White) with a shady job. To Zahler’s credit, he throws shade at everyone. A lot of the characters are developed enough to understand their motivations.
Despite my gripes, the film is interesting. Once the story gets rolling, things take a methodical and careful approach. The length of the film (nearly three hours) did not bother me, but it will probably detract me from future viewings—so whatever that means.
The violence is brutal and fast. The robbery and investigation scenes are tense. The film crackles throughout with intrigue, and I never found myself bored save for the epilogue. I have thoroughly enjoyed Zahler’s previous work, but I do think his third outing might be his weakest. (Granted, it is still a worthwhile film).
The storytelling aspects work excellently. Zahler is methodical in his approach and leaves almost nothing to be questioned. I enjoy these types of films, but I think viewers need to know they aren’t getting an action flick (despite the weird trailers).
The elephant in the room is the casting of Gibson, who is on his what, six-hundredth chance? On the one hand, I like that Zahler seems to revel in being an American bad-boy director, but on the other: casting Gibson gives the film a political stench that is hard to ignore. I imagine if someone feels strongly on this, they have already decided to skip the film—which is fine.
One thing this movie does that is important is reveals the shittiness inherent to a lot of people, jobs, life, and society. I think it is more important to see films where we understand people more than necessarily sympathize with them. (To be fair, the motivations of the robbers being robbed are a little one-dimensional). Redemption isn’t a concern here, and I think knowing that going in will help the film.
Overall, the film is worth seeing.
Addition a day later:I thought about the film quite a bit after finishing it, which is a good indicator for its quality. I think the most annoying thing for me is how flimsy the female characters are. Viewers may find themselves annoyed with this—especially as the male characters are quite well developed. Not sure if this one will end up in the top ten, but at this point in the year it is one of the few films worth seeing.