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Dragged Across Concrete
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Cops On The Edge Of Darkness"
4 stars

If one wanted to come up with a casting choice for a film that was destined to serve as a deliberate provocation to a large number of moviegoers, slotting Mel Gibson into the role of a violent and racist cop who somehow manages to stumble towards something resembling redemption without ever adjusting his retrograde ways would probably come close to topping that list. That is exactly what his latest film, the epic-length cop drama ''Dragged Across Concrete'' has to offer and while his presence will make the entire film a non-starter with many viewers, they will be missing out on one of the strongest performances that he has ever delivered.

He plays Brett Ridgeman, a detective just about to turn 60 who has been stuck in the same rank since his mid-20s and whose partner, Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) is a full two decades younger. The duo’s plans for advancement and raises are curtailed when a video of them roughly handling a suspect in custody hits the news and they are suspended for six weeks without pay. Desperate for money to move his MS-afflicted wife (Laurie Holden) and their constantly harassed daughter out of the terrible neighborhood they are forced to live in, Ridgeman gets a tip from a mobster (Udo Kier) about a criminal (Thomas Kretchmann) who is about to pull some kind of job and hatches a plan to stake out the guy to figure out what he is planning and rob him of his own ill-gotten gains. Although he thinks it is a terrible idea, Lurasetti is having some problems of his own and agrees to help his partner out with his plan. In news that will probably not come as much of a shock for many of you, this plan goes sideways with gruesome results for virtually everyone involved.

The film was written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, whose previous efforts, ''Bone Tomahawk'' and ''Brawl in Cell Block 99,'' brought together grisly violence and a formally precise cinematic style in a decidedly strange manner that suggest what might have occurred if Stanley Kubrick had spent his life making super-sleazy exploitation films. Although not nearly as brutal as his earlier works (though it should prove to be bloody enough for most viewers), this effort follows the same basic template as the others, especially in regards to Zahler's deliberate sense of pace and narrative structure that takes a story that might have once been told in about 80 minutes and stretches it out to astonishing lengths, a full 159 minutes in this case. (There is a very funny joke here involving Lurasetti’s drawn-out downing of a sandwich that indicates that Zahler has some sense of self-awareness about this particular artistic proclivity.) In the past, I have not been entirely sold on his blend of cinematic poetry and outright trashiness--some of his provocations have turned out to be dramatically empty and his narratives have not always earned their elongated running times--but while ''Dragged Across Concrete'' is hardly perfect, it is easily his best and most consistent work to date. He still stretches the story out a little too long for its own good and some of the elements, such as the stuff involving Ridgeman's wife and daughter and the extended sidebar involving an ill-fated bank teller (Jennifer Carpenter), are little more than empty exercises in button-pushing. And while the racism on display is not exactly surprising--it is part of the plot, after all--the level of misogyny that has been baked into the material with any evident hesitation on Zahler's part is more than a little disconcerting at times.

On the other hand, Zahler's hand as a filmmaker has never been stronger and even though it runs too long for its own good, it is somehow never boring, per se. He also knows how to get strong performances from his cast as well. Gibson, whose work as an actor has always been slightly undervalued throughout his career, delivers one of the best and most compelling performances of his career in a role that seems to have been tailor-made to emphasize both his professional strengths and his personal weaknesses. He is the standout but there are other fine turns from Vaughn, whose work here is fully free of the motormouth persona that has often gotten in the way of his own gifts as an actor, Tory Kittles as a young African-American man who is fresh out of prison and finds himself embroiled in the unfolding crime for entirely sympathetic reasons, and Don Johnson, who turns up in one scene as Ridgeman's former partner and current superior and breathes life into that hoariest of cop movie cliches, the scene where the boss order our heroes to turn in their guns and badges.

''Dragged Across Concrete'' is clearly not a film for everyone. It is relentlessly bloody, brutal and cynical--even the more overtly redemptive moments have a dark edge to them--and some may find it all to simply be too much for them. That said, what it lacks in efficiency and subtlety, it more than makes up for thanks to the depth of the performances as well as its sheer visceral impact. This will not be the most fun that you will have at the multiplex this year but once you see it, it will prove to be hard to shake.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=32843&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/22/19 10:22:29
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User Comments

9/26/19 morris campbell not bad but more grinding than gripping 3 stars
6/02/19 fulcibrad Cool film noirish flick with a great cast 5 stars
4/12/19 Andrew Fantastic - literally a crime novel in movie form, with all the wonderful quirks of a novel 4 stars
4/10/19 Vickie warneke Waste of time 1 stars
3/23/19 James Queerbugger I have always admired Mel Gibsons rampaging heterosexuality. 5 stars
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  22-Mar-2019 (R)
  DVD: 30-Apr-2019


  DVD: 30-Apr-2019

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