S. Craig Zahler (Brawl In Cell Block 99, Bone Tomahawk) scores again with this brutal tale of two recently suspended cops (Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn) who look for their lost wages in an unconventional way.
Between Brawl In Cell Block 99 and Bone Tomahawk, I thought writer/director S. Craig Zahler might have a miss with Dragged Across Concrete. Not because I don't think he's talented, moreso because he's already entered his career throwing haymakers (Tomahawk, 99) and this would be the one where he would get lazy. Not so. Not even in the slightest.
We meet Brett (Gibson) and Anthony (Vaughn) on the fire escape of an apartment building. Their interaction with each other is glib. They've been here before and have seen it all. They are about to arrest a suspect on narcotics charges. The suspect tries to escape through a window where Brett and Anthony have been the entire time, having said glib conversation. They quickly subdue the perp. Brett keeps his boot on the back of the suspect's neck. Applying pressure when needed if he feels his (Brett's) questions aren't being answered properly. Near perfect dialogue written here. We've been privy to this conversation in films prior but Zahler, Gibson, and Vaughn present it in a manner that feels fresh. Brett and Anthony execute the bust. It feels like a successful bust. However, shortly after the bust they receive a call from their Lieutenant telling them to get back to the precinct immediately. Lt. Calvert (Don Johnson) explains that there was a problem with their most recent arrest. A civilian using their phone filmed the exchange between Brett and the person suspected of narcotics distribution. Filming specifically the boot to the back of neck. While Lt. Calvert isn't particular bothered by the video, he has no choice but to suspend them. Excessive force by a police officer. 6 weeks, no pay. Brett and Anthony hand over their badges.
Brett's home life isn't good by any stretch. His wife, Melanie (Laurie Holden-The Walking Dead) has multiple sclerosis, in constant need of medication struggles to keep it together. His daughter has been assaulted 5 times in the last two years at school which Brett attributes to living in a poor neighborhood with a poor school district. The recently shelved detective needs a change for his family and fast. Brett only knows one thing the past 27 years. You could say (in Liam Neeson's voice), "He has particular set of skills, skills he had acquired over a very long career..." I feel It should be noted here, Dragged Across Concrete is not in the same tone as Taken. Moving on. He calls his partner Anthony and asks him to pick him up. Brett asks him to drive to a specific location. In turns out he has information that the person's place the two are parked outside of is dabbles in heroin trafficking. Anthony thinks it's a bad idea. "Bad like lasagna in a can." The illegal stakeout continues carried by Gibson and Vaughn's acting. Seasoned veterans of their craft. Ultimately, Anthony says "he's in until he's not." They have the skills to acquire compensation and looks as if they may. What starts out as routine surveillance turns into a complex chase at something bigger than a heroin dealer.
The plot is slightly more complex than my garbage synopsis suggests. It's interesting enough to keep you invested and guessing. With a finale just as good as any. A testament to some top notch writing and direction by S. Craig Zahler. The performances by the cast are strong and true. Exemplary work by Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Thomas Kretschman, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, and Don Johnson. Excellent production design by Brian Davie. Solid work by the special and visual effects department. And bravo to often unsung heroes who did masterful work in this film, the sound department. From the mixers to the editors. All in all, Dragged Across Concrete contributes a smart and brutal thriller to the ever exhausted crime drama genre.
See this film because I told you to. Or see it because it has the realistic brutality (with practical effects, which make a film so much better) and moral darkness of Brawl In Cell Block 99 with the firepower of Michael Mann's Heat.
Dragged Across Concrete is now in theaters and on demand from Lionsgate.