Dragged Across Concrete (2019; Dir.: S. Craig Zahler)
By Daniel Barnes
*Now playing at the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley.
Another muscular but lumbering hunk of wheezing masculinity from Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99 auteur S. Craig Zahler, this time starring Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson as head-busting cops contemplating a life of crime.
After their excessive use of force gets caught on camera, battle-scarred veterans Brett Ridgeman (Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vaughn, continuing a compelling career second-life playing terse hardmen with slightly squishy centers) get suspended by the laconic Chief Lieutenant Calvert. Don Johnson plays Calvert, leading a parade of one-scene standouts that also includes Udo Kier and Fred Melamed.
More hardened to human suffering and burdened by economic and familial imperatives, the elder Ridgeman pulls his ex-military partner into a plan to rob a drug dealer, only to find that the criminals have more ambitious crimes in mind.
At 161 minutes, Dragged Across Concrete does plenty of dragging, and there is nothing here that approaches the relentless downward momentum of Brawl in Cell Block 99, but Zahler once again proves a singular storyteller.
Dragged Across Concrete feels like disreputable 1980s genre trash like 52 Pick Up or Cobra filtered through the elegiac nihilism of Peckinpah and Leone. I can’t imagine any other filmmaker devoting so much emotional energy to a sequence featuring Jennifer Carpenter as a new mother reluctantly returning from maternity leave, only to discard her with such cruelty. It’s so humane and heartless at the same time