15th Apr2019

‘Dragged Across Concrete’ Review – Second Opinion

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, Thomas Kretschmann, Laurie Holden, Jordyn Ashley Olson, Don Johnson, Udo Kier, Fred Melamed | Written and Directed by S. Craig Zahler

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Dragged Across Concrete is the third feature film from writer-director Craig S. Zahler in his, at this time of writing, scorching assessment of America in a social-political discourse in a trilogy of films beginning with Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99 released in 2015 and 2017 respectively, with his latest feature the most scathing and exciting film yet. A sordid and thrilling epic that throttles your anticipation and expectations with a seismic shift of tense insipid nature that results in a magnificent display of craft in a thrilling atmospheric venture.

Let’s start with the running time. Each feature before Dragged Across Concrete for Zahler has clocked in at a sturdy one hundred and thirty-five minute running time. Not necessarily the longest of intervals but undoubtedly a hefty sit down that packs a weighted hefty punch of character development and slow but assured style. Zahler intensifies and maximizes such tenfold in is latest feature. Clocking in at a whopping and jaw-dropping one hundred and eighty minute running time. It’s downright colossal in scope with a seismic multi-narrative screenplay that explores a whole host of interconnected storylines but undoubtedly would not work any other way aside from what Zahler (after a lengthy battle with the studio for a final cut resulting in the limited release) intended to craft here. Especially that of the seemingly out of nowhere thread of Jennifer Carpenter’s Kelly Summer that on first glance the narrative is somewhat distinctly out of place, however, with how the film unfolds holds the gravest, most devastatingly opaque, characteristics of the main characters.

It’s actually genius how Zahler implicates his characters in a way that has them never advertently involved or present. With each small subtle nuance and flourishes all integral aspects of the overall impactful narrative that feed each other and range a sense of gravitas and unflinching fate as the story unfolds. The almost three-hour running time allows writer/director Zahler’s film to breathe in such an honest and authentic delivery for the characters to progress. The evolution of each specific character unravels in what seems like real time with its own characteristic nature with more time to explore and navigate in engagement and emotional weight as the film disengages. A slower but also free unrestricted and pedantic method of appealing development occurs for a far more captivating formulation.

This specific method of approach via the lengthy running time also provides the screenplay, also from Zahler, to really dig deep in the subtlety and refinement of evolution. It opens itself up for a broader more impactful and also meaningful expose of sorts. Not only does the exposition feel natural and sparse due to the longevity of proceedings, it is also convicted in a genuine manner of detail that is both consistent and foreboding as the film develops in each treacherous turn. These tiny instances of satisfying and compelling nuances integrated into the film also enlighten the performances in a spectacular manner. Specifically leading actors Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn, who are terrific with excellent chemistry and individualised depth.

Gibson, in particular, is outstanding. The worn, burnt-out bravado, is in full effect and the conviction nothing short of spectacular. Each scene and the resulting sequence is magnificent to see develop and when not utilised you almost get withdrawal symptoms from the absence of his role as seasoned cop Brett Ridgeman. Vaughn also impresses with another tally on his continuing journey of dramatic performances; continuing on from his incredibly underrated performance on the miscalculated True Detective season two, Brawl In Cell Block 99, Hacksaw Ridge and now his role as Anthony Lurasetti. Vaughn brings honesty and cavalier ease to each performance and with that, a sense of natural and genuine resonance, especially with his specific character threads of which he handles with terrific calculation. Here, he is essentially the eyes and ears of the audience and thankfully it is never sensationalised or over dramatic with how it plays out. The chemistry the two actors have is wonderful, the small subtle, albeit truly significant, character traits are embellished to terrific effect. They’re weighted and ultimately more endearing than the corny over-embellished traits often utilised to reveal small instances of plot development.

Dragged Across Concrete is in UK cinemas from April 19th. Check out Matt’s review from last years London Film Festival right here.

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