In 2015 S. Craig Zahler came out with Bone Tomahawk, his directorial debut. While I was disappointed that Timothy Olyphant dropped out of the original cast, I was absolutely delighted when I watched the film. I felt that from then on, that Zahler was going to do some great things. That he was going to make films the way he wanted to make them, however that may be. Then came Brawl in Cell Block 99 and I felt that my first sense about Zahler was being reinforced. Brawl in Cell Block 99 wasn’t the best movie, if I had a top 100 films of all time, I couldn’t say it would be a feature on the list. But once again, it was unique to Zahler, the confronting brutal violence that was a feature of Bone Tomahawk, was a presence in Brawl, now with some fun, 70’s style effects.
Dragged Across Concrete, Zahlers newest offering, stars Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn and Tory Kittles amongst a host of other screen veterans. Like Zahlers previous two directorial efforts, Dragged Across Concrete was also written by Zahler, which brings upon another one of the constant features in his films, great dialogue. Zahler tends to write strong, witty dialogue that make for great conversations, which is a must for his films, as they are not the fastest paced movies on the market. The crime drama focuses on two cops who’ve, in particularly Gibson, who’ve got nothing to show for the service they’ve done for the city, and in a moment of frustration decide “we have the skill and right to acquire proper compensation”.
This decision leads them on a crash course with Tory Kittles, who steals the show with his cold and calculated performance. Kittles has been on my radar for a long time ever since the exceptionally b-grade 2004 film, Frankenfish. He’s continued to pop up in film after film, Dirty, The Sapphires and TV show Colony, in which both his character Colony and in Dragged Across Concrete share a lot of similarities. Gibson and Vaughn are also good, but Gibson takes the cake between the two, delivering lines like the seasoned performer should. At times, when Vaughn’s character was wearing glasses, I actually wasn’t sure if it was Vince Vaughn at all, that maybe Gil Bellows had stepped off of the Patriot set to shoot some scenes with Zahler.
The violence once again is very brutal, a Zahler signature at this point. A Zignature, if you will. I don’t think I can even name a modern director that is able to consistently and successfully blend gory violence with drama in the way that Zahler can without the film being a horror film. Jennifer Kent does it well in The Nightingale, but it’s so far, it’s not a consistent feature of her films.
Like most films these days, story that Dragged Across Concrete offers is not necessarily anything new, but it doesn’t have to be. You read user reviews of almost any film on IMDB and someone says that the film they’re talking about ripped this idea from here, and that idea from there. But who really cares? For me, it’s not about the story itself, it’s about the dialogue, the good guys, the bad guys, the innocent bystanders. These are what need to stick out, and Zahler does this so well.
Jennifer Carpenter’s character is developed enough to make me wonder what her purpose in the film is within a minute. Who is she, where is she going? Later on, it all becomes clear, and it’s this character that separates this film from others that are just, average. The same goes for the at least one of the antagonists. He is not the average thief, and I don’t care about the fact he is robbing a corner store in the same fashion a thousand other antagonists have done in a thousand other films, the character is presented differently. It made me think, “hey, who’s this guy? He’s dangerous”. The list of well written characters, despite screen time, is long.
Dragged Across Concrete may not offer anything overly new, but what it does offer is a tremendous cast perfecting impactful characters, with great dialogue that will hold your attention for the entire two and a half hour run time.
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles
Writer: S. Craig Zahler