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With: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Thomas Kretschmann, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Don Johnson, Udo Kier, Fred Melamed, Justine Warrington, Matthew MacCaull, Primo Allon
Written by: S. Craig Zahler
Directed by: S. Craig Zahler
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, grisly images, language, and some sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 159
Date: 03/22/2019

Dragged Across Concrete (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Asphalt Bungle

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This violent, hypnotically slow crime drama is fairly pedestrian in its use of overwritten dialogue and underlit settings, but it's also more bracingly dangerous than most other movies would ever dare.

In Dragged Across Concrete, police officers Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) attempt a drug bust in their city of Bulwark. Unfortunately, their rough tactics are captured on video and they are suspended for six weeks without pay. Fed up at having to scramble for little reward, and unable to protect his family, Ridgeman follows a tip and decides to steal a shipment of gold bullion from a lowlife drug dealer.

Along with a reluctant Lurasetti — who hopes to propose to his girlfriend — they stake out the dealer's hidden apartment. Finally the robbery occurs, which turns out far bloodier than imagined. The police follow the criminals, and their hostage, to a remote location, where a violent showdown looms.

Director S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99) specializes in vivid, graphic pulp like Dragged Across Concrete, perhaps influenced by David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino, but with a hardness that comes from somewhere beyond Hollywood. Even his titles are more descriptive than the soft, generic examples we get today. Zahler uses his monolithic running times to powerful advantage, spending long minutes introducing a character simply so that her death is more meaningful; she's more than just a random passerby.

Many of Zahler's scenes consist of back-and-forths with characters talking, while concerns like the untrustworthiness of the media, or the creeping gentrification of health food stores, drop into the dialogue like unwieldy boulders. Dragged Across Concrete is also one of those dark movies that makes you wonder why people can't just turn on an extra light here and there.

Meanwhile, racism is handled bluntly, but not dishonestly, and an African-American character played by Tory Kittles is perhaps the smartest one in the room. Finally, the movie's very slowness and quietness makes all the wrongdoing and violence resonate a great deal more; as it goes, we consider consequences more than in any normal film. Rather than blowing by in a sea of bullets and blood, this one stays with you.

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