Dragged Across Concrete is a complicated offering. On the one hand it is written and directed by the singular mind that brought us the exemplary Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, S. Craig Zahler. On the other hand it stars the notoriously right-wing, and otherwise problematic, Vince Vaughan and Mel Gibson. Vaughan and Gibson co-star as police detectives who are put on a six-week unpaid suspension for an overly aggressive, and racially insensitive, arrest that someone caught on camera. What the camera missed was that they were being misogynistic too. As they are told of their suspension the two cops lament the overly PC world they live in, a moment where I hope Zahler is gently mocking his conservative cast rather than endorsing their views.
Meanwhile, Henry Johns (Tory Kittles) has just been released from prison and returns home to find his mother selling herself to pay for a drug habit while his disabled younger brother locks himself in his room when the “guests” are round. It’s that kind of film. As the cops look to supplement their six weeks missing income and Henry tries to find his feet again all three find themselves involved in a bank heist heist as they separately try to steal a large amount of cash and gold from notorious and violent occasional bank robber, Vogelmann.
Sorry that took so long to cover but this plot is dragged across a concrete two hours and forty minutes so I’m in no rush. Funnily enough though the one thing I can definitely say about this film is that I did not feel the running time; I sat patiently engaged throughout. Zahler knows how to keep his audience’s attention and somehow earns his bum-numbing running time.
From Zahler’s previous efforts I was primed for lots of extreme graphic violence but in that respect this might be his most restrained work yet. There is even some genital mutilation that happens off-screen rather than in detailed close-up. Can you imagine? Instead he is focused on character interactions, be that the grumblings between Vaughan and Gibson, or the nervous reassurances between Henry and his fellow out-of-his-depth-criminal Biscuit (Michael Jai White). That said we do see a few fingers and faces blown away and an entrail or two but Zahler makes sure we care about the characters before he mutilates them.
Not as surprising as Bone Tomahawk or as otherworldly as Riot, this is its own beast. There are problematic elements but after some reflection I have decided that we don’t need to sympathise with the corrupt cops or their counterparts. There are no good guys to root for but sometimes that is the way life goes.
Could have done without those “I’m not a racist but…” scenes though.