This review was originally published as part of our Venice Film Festival coverage on 03/09/2018.
S. Craig Zahler’s last two films, Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, pushed the boundaries of being undeniably well-made genre pieces with unsavoury reactionary politics. With Dragged Across Concrete he goes all out, casting Mel Gibson as a racially insensitive cop and taking broad swipes at the new era of police accountability. It’ll be a justified dealbreaker for some, but we found it self-aware enough to not fall into right-wing propaganda territory, and its violent story is gripping.
Caught on video applying excessive force, detectives Ridgeman (Gibson) and Lusaretti (Vince Vaughn) are suspended without pay for six weeks. To make ends meet, they plan to rob a wealthy heroin dealer who, of course, turns out to be a sadistic international criminal with military-grade weapons and eyes on tens of millions of dollars worth of gold. It’s a genuinely intriguing plot, and Tory Kittles gives a great performance as the local small-time criminal caught in the middle, as well as setting the stage for some of Zahler’s trademark ultraviolence.
Though it still has brutal moments of gore, Dragged Across Concrete is not as violent as either of its predecessors, especially the eye-watering Brawl, and Zahler’s now-established brand lets him have fun with your expectations. In particular, one extended disembowelment is played for the blackest possible laughs in a way very few other directors could have pulled off. Brilliantly surreal set design pulls you into this heightened reality, from a police station in a high rise to a desolate bank that looks like it’s from the future.
Witty, funny writing will have you laughing despite yourself; Vaughn in particular is afforded some fantastic lines and enjoys a great chemistry with Gibson. With Dragged Across Concrete, Zahler revels in making you feel uneasy, but there’s no filmmaker better at visceral grindhouse thrillers.
CAST: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Thomas Kretschmann
DIRECTOR: S Craig Zahler
WRITER: S Craig Zahler
SYNOPSIS: Once two overzealous cops get suspended from the force, they must delve into the criminal underworld to get their due.