review

'Dragged Across Concrete': the strappers are back

1666 dragged across concrete
Onze score

Dragged Across Concrete is the first film by S. Craig Zahler that will be released in Belgian cinemas. Adepts of Offscreen and the BIFFF know the American as a director with an aversion to political correctness and a great talent for superior, tough-as-nails genre films.

Author, musician, screenwriter, and film director S. Craig Zahler quickly earned himself a reputation for his occasionally extremely gruesome western Bone Tomahawk and his occasionally extremely violent fight/prison film Brawl in Cell Block 99. He is feared and applauded for incredibly brutal violence but also makes work about profound characters with fascinating and unpredictable stories. He is specialized in genre cinema in the tradition of Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch), Don Siegel (Dirty Harry), or Sergio Leone.

For his third film, he has dredged up Mel Gibson, the controversial film star and director whose career in Hollywood seemed to be over after several antisemitic and sexist tirades. Mad Mel delivers an impeccable performance as an older police inspector who is suspended when video footage surfaces of the excessively violent arrest of a drug dealer. He convinces his partner (Vince Vaughn) to highjack a gang of bank robbers. He wants the money so that he and his ill wife – who has become a racist – can move to a neighbourhood where their daughter will not be intimidated on the street.

Zahler takes plenty of time to sketch the situations and a whole series of characters in great detail. For example, there is a young man who has recently been released from prison who works for the bank robbers because he needs the money to take care of his junkie mother and paralyzed brother. In the dark and violent city, there are no heroes or anti-heroes, only stupid decisions that make the whole fucking mess even worse. Digressions about the backstories of secondary characters or the pleasures of a good sandwich eat up the run-time. But every time the action erupts, you’re on the edge of your seat.

Some people will not feel entirely comfortable with the occasional ostentatious refusal to be politically correct, but everyone will be compelled to agree that Zahler is a master of hardcore strapper cinema.

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