As his previous duo of features quite eloquently proved, an S. Craig Zahler movie is nothing to fuck around with. Bone Tomahawk and Brawl In Cell Block 99 both featured sedate plotting and cast iron, noir-ish dialogue so tough you could chew it that occasionally gave way to bursts of overwhelming grindhouse style ultra-violence and the occasional Udo Kier cameo. Both also are thrilling, breathless rides into death and depravity, usually featuring heavily flawed male leads struggling with what it means to do the right thing while the horrors around them test their masculinity to the limit.
The fabulously titled Dragged Across Concrete is more of the same but while it’s a little less overtly spectacular than Zahler’s previous outings, it’s still scores high when it comes to sheer, unbridled tension.
Mel Gibson (surely born to be cast in a Zahler movie) is the ridiculously grizzled Brett Ridgeman and Vince Vaughn is Anthony Lurasetti, two officers of the law suspended when their rough treatment of a suspect in their care is caught on video. Suspended for six weeks without pay, the two turn to a criminal endeavor to help get themselves “compensation” and plan to rob what they think is a high end drug deal. However who they’re actualling tailing are a trio of brutal professional bank robbers out to heist a shipment of gold bullion. As the same time Henry Johns (Tory Kittles) fresh out of jail and also needing money takes a tip from his friend Buscuit (Michael Jai White) to aid – you guessed it – the same cold blooded robbers that Ridgeman and Lurasetti are tailing. The heist goes bloody, VERY bloody in fact, and everyone linked to these maniacs have to weigh up what they are going to do as matters spin out of control.
Anyone not familiar with S. Craig Zahler’s style may find Dragged Across Concrete spectacularly not to their taste. His characters are unrepentantly violent, often racist, routinely misogynistic, or frequently all three and the film refuses to make apologies for that, but if you are making a film about bad people doing bad things, I guess you can’t really mince words…
While the violence may not be as showy here as the show stopping, water cooler gore of Tomahawk (man split in two at the anus) or Brawl (face ground completely off the skull), Concrete can still shock when it needs to and scenes involving a literally gut churning key retrieval or a shock moment of someone’s hands being obliterated by machine gun fire lodge in the brain like a 9mm bullet. Although the frankly dehumanizing treatment of a hostage will simply be a step too far for some.
Another potential stumbling point is the movie’s length, clocking in at a hefty 2 hours 39 minutes. Zahler has never been one to rush his stories, content to have things move at a sedate pace (something he uses for laughs, as with Vaughn’s real time devouring of a sandwich much to Gibson’s irritation) and let the story slow burn itself fruition, plus it also gives him time to indulge in some of his trademark, primo, top-notch, neo-noir, hard as nails dialogue that’s catchy as it is memorable.
Unapologetically nasty and astoundingly cruel, Dragged Across Concrete won’t ring everyone’s bell, but enthusiasts to S. Craig Zahler’s distinctive style will find much to thrill to but be warned: the title very well reflect how you may feel after watching.