Brooding And Measured;
Takes Its Time And Makes You Think;
Hushed, Yet Explosive.
I am truly a sucker for an auteur, especially one not interested in making the standard Hollywood production. When a writer/director has powerful actors at their disposal and isn’t afraid to take chances, the results can be vexing. After seeing Brawl at Cell Block 99 last year, I knew I would have to keep an eye on S. Craig Zahler in the future. It’s too bad this didn’t hit my market during its theatrical run, because I would have loved watching something like this crawl across the big screen, leaving squeamish patrons stuck to their chairs in its wake.
At its core, this isn’t a brand new story. Essentially, it’s a buddy cop picture where two partners have to enter the criminal world to make some much-needed quick cash. But the territory doesn’t have to be new to be effective, as this feels utterly distinct and all its own. It’s a long movie, clocking in at a little two and a half hours, but never fails to be engaging. Zahler’s craftsmanship is on point and he directs with confidence, delivering a gritty and unsettling story that never shies away from its violent moments but still manages to ground them in emotion.
Gibson and Vaughn are great together as partners Ridgeman and Lurasetti, a pair of detectives who find themselves suspended after a video of them using excessive force hits the news cycle. Needing money fast to sustain their families, they get wind of a bank robbery that will result in a major payday and decide to rob the robbers upon its completion. But unlike a more traditional story that might see us focus solely on them, we also see things from the point of view of the men tasked with being the lookouts/getaway drivers (played by an excellent Tory Kittles and Michael Jai White), spending nearly equal time with each set of characters. Of course the plan doesn’t go down smoothly and the resulting mess is one that you can’t take your eyes off.
Zahler takes his time to examine his characters and their motivations. Scenes that may be seen as throwaways in lesser films play here with greater importance as they really fill out the edges of these characters and add a lot of weight to the catharsis on display in the last act. It masterfully plays its explosive moments against the otherwise careful, quiet scenes. In a sense, the film lulls you into a false sense of security with long takes and scenes padded with extended beats before shocking you out of that zone with volatile, jarring sequences that you can’t look away from, despite how much you may want to.
This is a film that knows how to maximize its strengths. Dragged Across Concrete feels a bit like a Coen film with less witty dialogue and a harder edge, making it an unapologetic powerhouse and an unforgettable watch. Lurasetti repeats the line “I’m in until I’m not” a few times in the film and that’s exactly how I felt at the time. But it turns out, I was all the way in until the end, just like he was.
Dragged Across Concrete is Written and Directed By S. Craig Zahler
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