Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn have made an unflinchingly brutal film. Dragged Across Concrete is a shockingly violent, slow burn crime thriller. I was both riveted and appalled by the depths of moral morass. Some aspects are fascinating, while others overindulge in pulp theatrics. The racial themes and treatment of women are particularly ugly. Dragged Across Concrete literally goes for your guts. Writer/director S. Craig Zahler peers into the darkest recesses of human nature. It's a visceral journey from the opening frame.
Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) are two hard-boiled detectives in the Bulwark Police Department. Their rough treatment of a handcuffed suspect has earned a lengthy suspension. Vigilant crime fighters, the men feel betrayed by weak politicians and politically correct media. Ridgeman has a wife (Laurie Holden) with multiple sclerosis and a daughter who's constantly harassed by ghetto punks. Lurasetti can barely afford an engagement ring for his girlfriend.
The cops decide to cross the line and get some back pay for years of work. Their targeting of a drug dealer (Thomas Kretschmann) takes them in an unexpected direction. As their situation devolves dramatically, the men move further away from the values they once swore to protect. They are faced with a bloody reckoning against ruthless killers, and two accomplices (Michael Jai White, Tory Kittles) caught in the crossfire.
Dragged Across Concrete runs a whopping two hours and forty minutes. Most of that time is spent driving and talking in cars. To be clear, there's savage action scenes; but the vast majority of the film has the primary characters in deep discussion. There are swaths of screen time where the only thing happening is a stakeout. These are some of the best parts of the film. The characters slowly come to terms with the reality of their predicament. S. Craig Zahler has a mountain of exposition to explain the cops behavior. They have their reasons for going rogue, but are stupefied by the consequences.
Dragged Across Concrete has stomach churning violence. Several scenes are so sudden, they are like a kick to the groin. Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn worked together on the war epic Hacksaw Ridge. The carnage here is much more affecting. S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99) strikes without warning. One of the antagonists is an especially cruel sadist. Women are treated horribly in this film. Zahler skirts outright misogyny. Every female character is abused, violated, or worse.
Dirty cops chasing money is too simplistic a summary. The drive for the lead characters is not only greed. They feel betrayed after a lifetime of law enforcement. Dragged Across Concrete accurately depicts the gray areas of the police psyche. The escalation to robbing drug dealers is not glorified. If only this same level of nuance and thought had been given to the film's black characters. They are also driven by a financial need, but aren't nearly as sophisticated. They are too easily manipulated in the plot.
Dragged Across Concrete is provocative to say the least. Zahler could have shaved thirty minutes off and reduced some of the film's drag. Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are good together in a disturbing film. It's tough to sit through, but definitely worth seeing for the harder edge. Dragged Across Concrete is distributed by Summit Entertainment, a subsidiary of Lionsgate. It will have a limited theatrical release, but will be available on demand today.