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Dragged Across Concrete ★★★

A victim of it’s own longevity, Dragged Across Concrete falls a little short of Zahler’s better work

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Director: S. Craig Zahler 

Stars: Mel Gibson, Jennifer Carpenter and Vince Vaughn

Released: Venice Film Festival 2018

S. Craig Zahler has taken cinema by storm with his slow burn/gory/action movies. Since his incredible debut with Bone Tomahawk he has not stopped sharing his vision with the world. He is a very provocative artist with a clear vision of tension building. Dragged Across Concrete is his latest, and is playing out of competition at Venice. What is it all about you ask? The script centres on two policemen, one an old-timer (Mel Gibson), the other his volatile younger partner (Vince Vaughn), who find themselves suspended when a video of their strong-arm tactics become the media’s cause du jour. Low on cash and with no other options, these two embittered soldiers descend into the criminal underworld to gain their just due, but instead find far more than they wanted awaiting them in the shadows.

If you are squeamish Dragged Across Concrete is for you. Zahler dropped it down a notch but Concrete doesn’t necessarily need it. You are introduced to the character at a steady pace. You immerse yourself in the situation they are in. Zahler also does challenge the perception of the media and how they can spin any situation to attack people. You wouldn’t expect challenges like this from Zahler, but he is a lot more comfortable in his work now. The long takes Zahler uses (a big theme at Venezia this year), his becomes more effective as its a pressure cooker of tension. This is beautifully balanced with comedic writing, you will be laughing despite through out; Vaughn in particular is afforded some fantastic lines and enjoys a great chemistry with Gibson.

The juxtaposition of the characters is crucial to the Concrete. The film presents us a black protagonist from the underclass with a criminal background and with financial problems. On the other side we have two white cops, who get suspended for verifiable inordinate police violence and who share similar struggles as the black protagonist. The film approaches both sides with the same understanding and in the same manner, elucidating their backgrounds and temptations to commit a robbery. Unfortunately Dragged Across Concrete does suffer from it’s long run time of 2 hours 40 minutes. You would want it to end a lot sooner but Zahler didn’t know when to stop. The end sequence compensates the runtime but Dragged Across Concrete is not his best film.

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