S. Craig Zahler’s latest film is a true master stroke in filmmaking. It is elegantly slow, contained, precise and notably beautifully framed throughout. It is an unflinching carefully crafted take on a genre worn rather thin. It is by far one of the best films of 2019 so far.
I would argue Dragged Across Concrete marks Zahler as a upcoming modern master of cinema, similar to perhaps a Damien Chazelle (in a very different way). An auteur with a vividly distinct vision that is portrayed through nuance and style.
We follow Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn), two some-what shady cops with a tendency for violence. They stake out an armoured vehicle they suspect of either dealing, robbery or trafficking. Henry (Tory Kittles) and Biscuit (Michael Jai White) drive and escort the criminals, Ridgeman is entirely willing to cross the line, breaking the law whereas Lurasetti isn’t so much. However his plan isn’t so flawless as fate has other ideas, things begin to prove exceedingly harder to accomplish that originally though.
This is a film that runs for over 150 minutes that never loses sight or spectator attention, it is primarily through Gibson and Vaughn’s multi-layered humorously dark friendship along with Zahler’s direction that keeps you utterly engrossed. It is a slow burn, but like 2001: A Space Odyssey or more recently Blade Runner 2049 it allows for perfection. That is a quality that I highly respect. Every scene is with reason, there is no slither of fat that could be trimmed. Zahler’s precision is intoxicating as you become mesmorised by his masterful framing and use of light. The frame captures the entire face, always – allowing the whole picture to be seen which creates a strange sense of unease. Manipulating you by maintaining a steady control that puts you at ease, this builds tension through the increasingly suspense-filled film. Never cutting from the full perspective of a situation which allows for Zahler’s unsettling yet infrequent bursts of violence to be so powerful and affecting.
Mel Gibson’s performance is a career high and perhaps a come back on the acting side? (He directed Hacksaw Ridge in 2016) He is a grizzled police officer that calculates everything in an infuriatingly meticulous way. He is subtle and stern, contrasting to Vaughn’s darkly comedic role. The pairing of the two is perhaps one of the best duos in recent memory, but it is Zahler’s screenplay that translates incredibly smoothly onto camera than shines through his restrained and complex characters.
What Dragged Across Concrete tackles is tough, for some it will prove extremely challenging. But if you know Zahler’s resume you know the brutality and angle to expect from the film. But it is his nature of showing violence in such an affecting and what I would argue is a poetic way, that he creates an ongoing tension that is told through narrative strands focusing on characters. The brutality shown is with purpose and is blunt, showing the harsh reality of violence.
The script is meticulous and dialogue heavy, as most of the film is set during the stake out. It proves to be a character study that fleshes out every minute detail. With moments of shock, seriousness and tension it brilliantly juxtaposes from the comedic elements that knowingly balances itself perfectly.
I cannot give enough praise to this film. Dragged Across Concrete is an artful masterclass in filmmaking. Slow and contained, Zahler’s beautifully tension-filled vision shines through its steady precision.
DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE IS SET FOR RELEASE IN US CINEMAS IN MARCH & IN UK CINEMAS IN APRIL
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