While some movies follow likeable characters that we want to support, others go down a path filled with imperfection, presenting us with unpleasant individuals that are deeply intriguing at the same time. Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, Dragged Across Concrete is a remarkable and ruthless experience that confidently prioritises its story over mainstream appeal.
Dragged Across Concrete follows two police officers who must venture into the world of crime after they are suspended for excessive force. Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn play the aforementioned partners, with Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White and Jennifer Carpenter rounding out the principal cast.
Much like Zahler’s previous work, this is a character study that does not care if you like its characters. Our leads are far from politically correct, spewing prejudice rhetoric at several points of the film. While some protagonists are set up to be cheered by the audience, most will feel frequent disdain for the ones we see here. With this in mind, these people are still made up of decidedly good qualities in some ways. They are not good people but are truly three dimensional and necessary for this dark tale. This is not a movie that wants to offend its viewers but rather contains offensive characters that are absolutely vital to the narrative. It is a breath of fresh air to see a filmmaker fully commit to their vision, allowing this grimy story to be told in its most optimal way.
Taking an unfaltering slow-burn approach, S. Craig Zahler takes his time with each scene, positioning us right alongside the flawed personalities mentioned above. Running at 159 minutes, the filmmaker makes us feel every sequence as he deliberately lays out the pieces that fit into the larger puzzle. Every choice has a purpose, and every step along the way is a factor in the character development that leads us to the brutal final act. On top of this, there is zero score in the picture, letting the script and performances shine as the movie’s most important attributes.
Despite his limited filmography, every word uttered in the film is distinctively Zahler. They are slick and precise, constantly pushing the narrative right alongside the fantastic performances of our actors. Mel Gibson is perfect casting as the hardened Ridgeman and Vince Vaughn once again proves how great he is in a dramatic role. Beyond the main duo, Tory Kittles offers a much needed alternative angle to the story, showing us a more sympathetic man on his own journey towards the film’s conclusion.
As the chapters of this tale unfold, you slowly realise that this is an incredible piece of cinema. Every element from the steadfast pace to the gritty cinematography contributes towards the gloomy situations before us. The movie knows exactly what it needs to be, and makes no compromises as it steadily bulldozes its way to get there.
Dragged Across Concrete is undoubtedly going to become one of 2019’s best releases. What S. Craig Zahler has proved once again is that characters and story are the most important elements of all. With Brawl in Cell Block 99, Zahler became the modern-day B-movie king. With Dragged Across Concrete, he becomes one of the best filmmakers working today.