Writer/director S. Craig Zahler‘s 2018 film, Dragged Across Concrete plays-out like a cinematic novel. It’s a film with little digressions which expand on supporting characters, unveiling who they are so that we get to know them and understand them. A less assured director may have felt the need to cut these, but Zahler lets his film breathe, unfolding at a deliberate pace (it clocks in at 2 hours 39 minutes). It’s almost poetic in its stillness, with Zahler setting-up the monotony of a stakeout and the realism of a low-key car chase. It’s this minutiae which helps make Dragged Across Concrete great, putting it on the same plain as the likes of The French Connection and Prince Of The City.
Zahler’s script for Dragged Across Concrete is punchy and well written. The inter-play between Gibson and Vaughn includes some incredible (and at times darkly funny) dialogue which is up there with the type of thing Raymond Chandler would have punched out on his battered Underwood. A lot of writers attempt to deliver this style of dialogue – most fail but Zahler is one of the few who has the right ear for crafting wise-ass cracks and tough put-downs.
Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are exceptional as the cops suffering under the implications of woke political correctness. Both ditch their leading man credentials to embrace their inner character actors. There’s no room for glamour – this is a hard-boiled film which feels liked it was pulled from the 1970s. The streets aren’t getting any safer, but Ridgeman and Lurasetti are forced to change their ways to keep within a world which sees a slap on the wrist as police brutality. Gibson is willing to tackle this head-on, delivering a layered performance with a tremendous amount of stillness. Some will attack him for Ridgeman’s politics, while others will applaud him for embracing the character’s darker elements. Gibson deserves to be lauded for this brave move. He has a lot of moments which offer different shades to his character – be that when he’s talking with his wife (Laurie Holden) or being reprimanded by his boss (a great Don Johnson). He’s a man who has been made tough by the dangerous world he inhibits. Vaughn is equally good, playing his role with the right amount of camaraderie and respect for Gibson. His character might not be as rich, but his performance is no less impressive.
Dragged Across Concrete had a limited cinematic release around the globe, where it grossed $660,132.