Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
The Korean Film Festival in Australia is underway - make sure you click here to check out our reviews from this year's line-up!x
review, Dragged Across Concrete, Dragged, Across, Concrete, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Don Johnson, Jennifer Carpenter, Michael Jai White, Tory Kittles, Laurie Holden, Udo Kier, Liannet Borrego, Trezzo Mahoro, S. Craig Zahler, Action, Crime, Drama film rating




By Jake Watt
10th July 2019

The use of English has become much more terse in recent times - not just in literature, where "spare prose" is invariably seen as a virtue, but also in public speaking, journalism, movies (where the amount of dialogue per minute has, on average, halved in the last fifty years), and even everyday conversation. There’s no sense bemoaning this, yet I love the more elaborate use of language in the older style. I love reading it and hearing it.

So, it seems, does prolific, multi-disciplined director, novelist, screenwriter and musician S. Craig Zahler.

Having watched and devoured Zahler’s two previous films, ‘Bone Tomahawk’ and ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’, I was eagerly anticipating ‘Dragged Across Concrete’. I’m happy to report that Zahler hasn’t mellowed - his latest film, a throwback police potboiler about a couple of racist loose cannon cops, is incredibly mean-spirited and provocative to the tenth degree. Zahler wants to press your buttons and he wants to do it in the most unsubtle ways possible.

Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn, ‘Fighting with my Family’) are a pair of police officers working the urban beat in the fictitious city of Bulwark. Older and more prone to doing “whatever it takes”, Ridgeman becomes unnecessarily rough with a suspect during a drug bust, using his foot to jam the man's face into a fire escape. They also pour cold water on and mock the suspect's partially-deaf girlfriend. The former act is caught on video, and the two men are called before their superior, Lieutenant Calvert (Don Johnson, ‘Book Club’). Both men are suspended without pay in order to appease the media. With Ridgeman's wife unable to work due to illness and Lurasetti preparing to propose to his fiancée, the men resolve to use their criminal connection, Friedrich (Udo Kier, ‘American Animals’), who they have developed through their time in law enforcement to make cash that will sustain them until their suspensions are lifted.


Meanwhile, recently released ex-con Henry Johns (Tory Kittles, ‘Olympus Has Fallen’), hoping to finance a better life for his drug-addicted, prostitute mother and his video game-playing wheelchair-bound little brother, joins his childhood friend Biscuit (Michael Jai White, ‘The Dark Knight’) as getaway drivers and lookouts for a gang of ruthless bank robbers. Ridgeman and Lurasetti tail the crew, quickly identifying the telltale signs of the planned bank robbery; though Lurasetti considers calling the robbery in, Ridgeman convinces him to allow them to carry out the job before robbing them in turn.

Despite these crisscrossing plotlines, ‘Dragged Across Concrete’ is actually a rather straightforward film, albeit one filled with eccentric choices: talky Tarantino-esque monologues; slow, rambling scenes punctuated with explosive gore; and a whopping 160-minute running time. In theory, that sort of dawdling ought to be a drag. Who wants their trash delivered at the glacial pace of an art film?

Zahler is such an imaginative writer and skilled director, however, that his films feel exactly as long as they need to be. About 85% of 'Dragged Across Concrete' is just one or two men sitting in a car talking to each other, and yet it never becomes tedious or dull. It’s the ‘Before Sunrise’ of dirty cop films. It's genuinely thrilling. Then, when the action does start, it's so involving that the tension spikes (and it's not mindless action either).

‘Dragged Across Concrete’ boasts a capable, experienced cast, without whom the already-slow pace of the film would feel interminable. Zahler takes his time with almost every scene - for example, letting a sequence of Lurasetti noisily chomping on an egg salad sandwich during a stakeout play out in its irritating entirety (“A single red ant could have eaten it faster,” his partner rasps). What makes this movie work is the stillness the characters inhabit. We can see their whole lives – these men are broken, and all they’ve ever known is violence. “It’s bad like lasagna in a can,” says Lurasetti.

Zahler’s script is a strange hybrid, combining anachronistic formality with a modern penchant for non-sequitur. There are a bunch of terrific, laconic one-liners but the role mostly requires actors who can convey stoic calculation. The entire cast delivers, with Tory Kittles turning in the most charismatic performance.

About 85% of this film is just one or two men sitting in a car talking to each other, and yet it never becomes tedious or dull. It’s the ‘Before Sunrise’ of dirty cop films. It's genuinely thrilling.

Gibson tears into the juicier dialogue with relish, waxing eloquent about the logistics of his predicament and the percentages of every outcome. ‘Bone Tomahawk’ had a similar way of delivering setups and payoffs in the dialogue, such as nifty language callbacks for every character – in ‘Dragged Across Concrete’ we hear Vaughn's Lurasetti using an insult that we later learn he got from his girlfriend. His warm relationship with Gibson’s Ridgeman brings depth to both of their characters, something that the antagonists could perhaps have used a little more of.

The bank robbers are a lot like the cannibal tribe from ‘Bone Tomahawk’ or the bikers from Panos Cosmatos’ ‘Mandy’. Zahler is great at depicting menacing villains who are about as inhuman as humans can get, more like robots or literal killing machines. The movie always keeps them at arm’s length, but what you see and hear from them gives the strong impression that watching a day in the life of one of these guys would make you vomit. There is something extra-menacing about their sophisticated speech and strict adherence to proper grammar. “The blood is gratis”, one robber remarks upon handing over the gore-stained money he stole after blasting a convenience store clerk with a machine gun.

When the violence does appear, it’s stark, visceral, and harrowing - Zahler both lays on the gore and captures it with dispassionate medium-take clarity and zero background music. In ‘Dragged Across Concrete’, yes, people are dragged across concrete. It literally happens several times. The title’s metaphorical meaning is spelled out explicitly in dialogue when Lurasetti says: “Right now, we're heading into new territory. Foggy grey landscape, but I know all of my limits, but maybe not yours. So, before I build a killing instrument that I last used in the army, I wanna hear that you don't plan on executing a human being to facilitate a robbery. That boundary is reinforced in steel concrete.”

The most controversial aspect of the film is the way it handles race relations and plays off Mel Gibson’s toxic reputation. The two policemen lament a world where “political correctness” runs amok, where men sound like women, where being labelled a racist can ruin your career. “I don’t politic, and I don’t change with the times, and it turns out that shit’s more important than good, honest work,” Ridgeman complains. This could be interpreted as Zahler attempted to lionise Gibson, but the film makes it clear that the inability of these men to adapt to change is a fatal character flaw, rather than a virtue.

There is a scene in ‘Dragged Across Concrete’ where two characters are in a car, listening to music. Some people might describe the music they are listening to as “smooth jazz”, which is definitely unsavoury and unpleasant, but also a disservice. “Modal jazz” would be the descriptor I’d use: sour, dissonant and discordant stuff that invokes neon-lit city streets and dingy, smokey bars and whiskey. Only jazz fans will be able to tell the difference between the two styles, in much the same way that people familiar with Zahler’s films will more easily be able to differentiate his latest from the milieu of modern B crime movies.

With its moral ambiguity and explicit violence, ‘Dragged Across Concrete’ is ugly, bleak, brutal and vile in the best ways possible. The film’s true target audience, though, is patient connoisseurs of highbrow-lowbrow combo platters who are eager to watch a cast of bad men navigate a slow-motion descent into hell. Understandably, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you’re already a fan of S. Craig Zahler’s oeuvre, elaborate dialogue and exploding heads, you’re in for a treat.

RELEASE DATE: 29/08/2019
CAST: Mel Gibson
Vince Vaughn
Don Johnson
Jennifer Carpenter
Michael Jai White
Tory Kittles
Laurie Holden
Udo Kier
Liannet Borrego
Trezzo Mahoro
DIRECTOR: S. Craig Zahler
PRODUCERS: Sefton Fincham
Jack Heller
Keith Kjarval
Dallas Sonnier
Looking for more Revelation Perth International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion - The classic comics get a touch of magic
TRENDINGWIN ASTERIX: THE SECRET OF THE MAGIC POTIONThe classic comics get a touch of magic
Shadow - Action and intrigue in ancient China
TRENDINGWIN SHADOWAction and intrigue in ancient China
Ride Like a Girl - Melbourne Cup biopic plagued by race's questionable history
TRENDINGRIDE LIKE A GIRLMelbourne Cup biopic plagued by race's questionable history
Midsommar: The Director's Cut - Ari Aster elevates an already remarkable film to a masterpiece
TRENDINGMIDSOMMAR: THE DIRECTOR'S CUTAri Aster elevates an already remarkable film to a masterpiece
Ad Astra - A luscious and meticulous space drama
TRENDINGAD ASTRAA luscious and meticulous space drama
And Then We Danced - A passionate and remarkable classic in the making
TRENDINGAND THEN WE DANCEDA passionate and remarkable classic in the making
Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan - Close to home
When Harry Met Sally... - 30 years ago, a boy met a girl
TRENDINGWHEN HARRY MET SALLY...30 years ago, a boy met a girl
Korean Film Festival in Australia 2019 - The reviews
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale - An extremely silly zomedy
Young Ahmed - A disappointment from a world of talent
TRENDINGYOUNG AHMEDA disappointment from a world of talent
Judy & Punch - A dark fairytale from a fresh Australian voice
TRENDINGJUDY & PUNCHA dark fairytale from a fresh Australian voice
Downton Abbey - Transition from TV to film not as classy as expected
TRENDINGDOWNTON ABBEYTransition from TV to film not as classy as expected
Bangla - A truly beautiful mess
TRENDINGBANGLAA truly beautiful mess
The Keeper - The true story of the Nazi goalkeeper and the English girl
TRENDINGTHE KEEPERThe true story of the Nazi goalkeeper and the English girl
Blinded By The Light - The spiritual sequel to Bend It Like Beckham
TRENDINGBLINDED BY THE LIGHTThe spiritual sequel to Bend It Like Beckham
Dog's Best Friend - Good boys, great doco
TRENDINGDOG'S BEST FRIENDGood boys, great doco
Daffodils - New Zealand Musical almost in full bloom
TRENDINGDAFFODILSNew Zealand Musical almost in full bloom
My Big Gay Italian Wedding - A ridiculously fun love story
TRENDINGMY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDINGA ridiculously fun love story
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
© 2011 - 2019 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us