Dragged Across Concrete — Movie Review

An underrated gory gem now enjoying a resurrection on Netflix.

Source: Summit entertainment

How in hell did I miss this one? Dragged Across Concrete was largely forgotten, or lumped in with the rest of Mel Gibson’s many “geezer teasers” when it premiered in 2018.

The infamous, multiple Oscar-winning, somewhat professionally redeemed, devout Roman Catholic, and notorious anti-Semite Mel Gibson strikes pay dirt with a hard-hitting neo-noir grisly thriller. If you liked Gibson’s 1999 cigarette smoke-tinted Payback, with its clever tagline, “Get ready to root for the bad guy,” you’ll probably like this modernized pulpy drama actioner that Netflix just released on its platform.

Dragged Across Concrete hit number one on the streaming giant. And it’s not hard to see why. It’s dark, frightful, twisty, and solidly albeit unusually structured. It’s oddball narrative fits the type of style Netflix pioneered in such features as the flashback-heavy, side-character-packed Orange is the New Black, and the fast-forward-reverse of 2018’s The Perfection.

Crime thrillers are a genre that seem to excel at experimental wonky plot lines, seen most famously in Pulp Fiction. But also seen way back in Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 thriller The Killing.

Source: Summit Entertainment

Dragged Across Concrete centers on two detectives, Brett (Gibson), and Anthony (Vince Vaughn) in the fictional city of Bulwark, who get suspended when they’re recorded committing police brutality on a suspect. Faced with money woes, Brett calls upon a retired crime lord he knows, for the inside scoop on the whereabouts of any deep-pocketed drug dealers currently in town. His plan — rob the motherfucker, and use the cash to get his family out of the ghetto. Brett gets his mark, only to discover his supposedly small-time dealer target is actually part of a much bigger and deadlier heist. Dragging his partner Anthony along with him, the two dirty cops soon find themselves in over their heads against a gang of ruthless psychopathic bank robbers.

At the same time, we’re introduced to Henry Johns (Tory Kittles), who’s just been released from prison, and is looking for a side hustle himself. An associate of his, Biscuit (Michael Jai White), sets him up with a gig as the muscle for a couple of — wouldn’t you know it — bank robbers.

The two character sets converge in a propulsive and deadly third act. All the while, we’re shown the cold brutality of the bank robbers, as one of them scrounges up the money to buy an armored car by blasting away a cashier and two petty drug dealers. As well as a touching scene with a new mother trying to overcome social anxiety and return to work at her bank. A character we’re led to think will have some significance, only for her to…well, not quite fit into the robbery scheme as we expect.

“Nigger.” “Likewise.” Gibson and Kittles in a colorful exchange. Courtesy: Summit Entertainment

Dragged Across Concrete defies your standard thriller fare. It takes its time. It’s not a Point A to Point B crime knock-around, like Taken. It’s not your sophomoric dude-bro douchbag film, like Boondock Saints. There are no good guys. Its main character is racist and glibly unconcerned with the fact that his career on the streets has basically broken him as a man. Its supposed “hero” is cruely clever. Noble only in the comparative sense. Like the least offensive-smelling Dobermann turd amongst a pile of them in a junkyard. Refreshingly, it’s not afraid to depict Black city youths as menacing mongrels out to target Whitey. As opposed to merely misunderstood minors, like the media’s misrepresentations of Black police shooting “victims” like Travyon Martin and Michael Brown. Brett’s teen daughter gets splashed by orange soda by a gang of Black thugs on her way home from school early on, providing more impetus for the detective to get his family out of Dodge.

It’s also sickeningly gory in some spots. There’s one scene in particular, involving, shall we say, a crude surgical procedure, that would have been too excessive even in a slasher film.

The film is also disturbingly prescient and relevant, predating by two years the recording of Derek Chauvin’s kneeling on George Floyd until the suspect’s demise, which sparked nationwide riots in the summer of 2020.

Dragged Across Concrete is written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, who’s known for other gritty and grisly crime fare like Brawl in Cell Block 99, and the ultra violent Bone Tomahawk. Definitely worth a watch if you like smart, masculine crime films that pull no punches.

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