The last time Mel Gibson appeared on the big screen, he did so in the successful family comedy, Daddy’s Home 2: not quite what one expects from the Gibson we know from Braveheart and Lethal Weapon. But now he returns with a style and story one would immediately associate with the legendary Hollywood star. Dragged Across Concrete is a long, dramatic, and gruesomely violent crime-thriller: a Mel Gibson special some might say.
The film revolves around two cops, Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn), who both get suspended due to failing to adhere to contemporary societal principles and technological advancements. We also follow Henry Johns (Tory Kittles), a criminal determined to turn his family’s life around after finishing off a prison sentence.
Audiences also learn about each character’s respective struggles early on. Henry returns to find his mother taking part in extracurricular activities with strange men, while his disabled younger brother locks himself in his room playing video games. Brett is desperate to move his family out of the rough neighbourhood they live in, out of fear for his young daughter’s future. Unfortunately, he is unable to do so because of his low paying job (and suspension), as well as his wife’s severe illness. Brett’s partner Anthony is planning on proposing to his girlfriend and now fears what their life may be like with his newfound suspension. All of these situations lead them to take part in shady activities that ultimately force them to intersect.
What sets Dragged Across Concrete apart from other cop tales is its methodical pacing. It feels like we see everything we are not supposed to see in a film. There are no sudden cuts, with takes going on for what feels like an eternity at times. Director S. Craig Zahler forces you to sit with his characters, feeling their emotions, a startling yet effective strategy which comes out beautifully during Brett and Anthony’s stakeout. In ninety-nine percent of Hollywood films, there would be quick snippets of our character’s talking before they eventually come across a “big break.” In this film, however, you are forced to sit through every conversation, every sip of coffee and every close call.
One of the many ways Zahler has successfully pulled off this approach is by incorporating a great deal of humour. Even in the scenes where you don’t anticipate any comedic relief, a one-liner or an unexpected action makes you chuckle. It’s a clever ice breaker when easing people into the narrative and as the film goes on, the humour becomes a welcome break from intense, and at times, graphic visuals.
Performances are excellent across the board, as each actor takes on a character that is not necessarily likeable, but placed in relatable human predicaments. The characters are complex and perhaps no one does a better job at showcasing these complexities than Mel Gibson. Gibson displays a cold-hearted side of Brett. At the same time, he wins you back by being a loving husband and father. Also, the chemistry between Gibson and Vince Vaughn is an absolute treat to watch. They keep you entertained and even make you a tad emotional.
Although Dragged Across Concrete’s two hours and thirty-nine-minute runtime works, a shorter runtime would have helped take this engaging crime-thriller to the next level. There are scenes that have no impact on the narrative such as Kelly Summer’s (Jennifer Carpenter) introduction. A shorter explanation of her back-story would have sufficed. Also, certain scenes – some action sequences in particular – may have benefitted from a faster pace as there would have been a greater sense of excitement.
The risqué topics that the film deals with may also turn off some members of the audience as well. Racism is a big subject and with Gibson’s unfortunate history, those who still have not forgiven him may check out early on in the film.
Overall, Dragged Across Concrete offers us an old school cinematic approach, with plenty of entertaining and intriguing moments. During the climax, Brett utters four words that best explain what everyone watching is thinking: “Things are getting weird.” On more than one occasion, things get “weird,” but the scene that sums up this film is when Brett sits in the car listening to his partner Anthony eat a sandwich. It’s a painfully long scene that makes you question what on earth you are watching, and in the end, you find yourself laughing and satisfied with the results.
Dir: S. Craig Zahler
Scr: S. Craig Zahler
Prd: Sefton Fincham, Jack Heller, Keith Kjarval, Dallas Sonnier
Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter
DOP: Benji Bakshi
Runtime: 159 minutes
Dragged Across Concrete hits cinemas on April 19th.