Some filmmakers are quite content keeping the dial set at an effective but unwavering 1 or 2, but S.Craig Zahler doesn’t believe in cranking anything into gear that isn’t turned all the way up.
Like his precious two films (“Bone Tomahawk”, “Brawl in Cell Block H”), it’s not easy to cool after Zahler’s newest.
“Dragged Across Concrete” is the type of sweat-inducing, white-knuckle chin-drooper that not even the securest of celluloid split air systems can quench. This thing clams up the skin, dries up the throat and jettisons the heart rate … and by golly, you’ll love it for it.
Gibson and Vaughan play overzealous cops – the former, the more grizzled and senior – who got suspended from the force due to what they see as an absurd leak from the “entertainment media” or “news”.
In order to get the compensation they feel they deserve, Ridgeman – whose wife has MS and daughter has been assaulted numerous times in their rough neighborhood – and Lurasetti decide to snatch the loot from a ruthless mobster and his team of bank-robbers.
With heart-stopping story drifts, shockingly realistic violence and ticker-pausing suspense, “Dragged Across Concrete” is a film that even the most detached and pessimistic of film-fan will be swept up in.
With so many of today’s action-thrillers spoonfeeding their audience like a tot midway through an episode of “Sesame Street”, it’s refreshing to see a movie that asks the audiences to connect the dots, lets actions speak more often than words, and doesn’t succumb to the projected, habitual Hollywood-style ending.
This is also a film where nothing – and no one – is black and white. While not nearly as nasty as the sadistic villains of the piece, Gibson and Vaughn’s coppers also aren’t Boy Scouts. Constantly cutting corners, not necessarily looking out for the greater good and too anxious and concerned with their own concerns to be role models to a city (or, in Gibson’s case, a daughter), these are two men out to look out for themselves.
Acting-wise, there’s no undercooked spots in the dish. Gibson, in particular, is pitch-perfect for the role of the bushed, over-it cop who, at times, resembles a forlorn Harry Callahan and at other times, an older, less chirpy take on (his “Lethal Weapon” character) Martin Riggs. Just seeing Gibson back, firing on all cylinders, both performance-wise and in a physical sense, will have fans demanding a new “Lethal Weapon” film immediately. He’s still got it – he just hasn’t been in anything this good in a while, so it’s been hard to know.
Vaughn, as the ‘straight’ sidekick, is conventionally good too — but particularly so in his chatty scenes with Gibson, of which there are some absolute corkers.
The supporting cast – which includes Don Johnson, Jennifer Carpenter and Michael Jai White – are all doing fine work here, but they’ve far less scene numbers to impress than the anchors.
Zahler seems to be taking his cue from some of the gritty, unapologetic pot boilers of the ‘70s – even, Walter Hill’s ‘90s looter-thriller “Trespass” – and the wave of crime novels that preceded them. There are big, long chunks of dialogue about nothing that would normally work better in a paperback than they would on film, and there’s grotesque blood-splattering kills that you’d normally only get in on Eli Roth retrospective reel, but with Zahler’s smart and unpredictable screenplay and carefully played performances by the leads, the nontraditional elements blend into the world of “Dragged Across Concrete” effortlessly.