From the stunning debut of Bone Tomahawk to the brutal follow-up of Brawl In Cell Block 99, filmmaker S. Craig Zahler was making quite the name for himself. And with his latest film, Dragged Across Concrete, Zahler once again proves himself to be one of the most unique filmmakers of the decade. Dragged Across Concrete is a brooding film about two detectives who simply refuse to evolve. And luckily, the film descends so far beyond the basic premise you may forget the origin point but for good reason. Rather than embrace the world they now inhabit, the two detectives turn inwards and become jaded. As the film progresses, Zahler shows exactly what that attitude will get you in life, and it’s a bloody good time.
Dragged Across Concrete takes many interesting approaches to what could have been a typical buddy-cop film. Yet what is most daring about this film is how intentionally slow it feels. Zahler fully embraces its quiet moments, and whenever we expect chaos to ensue in his typical fashion, it’s rather brief yet powerful. Like its predecessors, the gore and violence in Dragged Across Concrete feels visceral. However, this film portrays its bloodshed in a much different light. It is greatly toned down from that scene in Bone Tomahawk, yet it somehow holds similar impact. For the violence in this film is no longer out of pure savagery, but instead out of greed, which feels much uglier in the grim world portrayed.
Zahler seems very confident from a directing standpoint, with long takes and very still imagery. The viewer joins Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn as they are eating lunch on a stakeout. We bask in their small banter between sleep shifts. It’s organic, and necessary to fully envelop one’s self within the worlds that Zahler so cleverly builds piece by piece. All three of his films burst with life; whether it be the music written by Zahler himself, or the odd set of characters portrayed, it feels cinematic yet hyper-realistic. It’s clear that Zahler intends to dive fully into genre filmmaking, and uses his knowledge of film to the fullest. The transition between genres is always unexpected, and always provides great entertainment value.
Zahler’s writing in Dragged Across Concrete is equally as powerful, with themes coming full circle in an extremely nonchalant manner. And with Zahler having a pension for excess in his films, it’s refreshing to understand his sly writing through dissection rather than exposition. The ideals of Gibson and Vaughn are made clear almost immediately through their actions and some drawn out dialogue. Gibson’s crass and unapologetic attitude towards the politics of media relations is explored through his actions, and how those around him are affected by it. Vaughn’s sarcastic humor plays well off of his grizzled partner, and together they make a fantastic combination.
The social commentary in this film is easily Zahler’s most prevalent to date, and it is very poignant at times. At first, it remains unclear whether or not Zahler agrees that adapting to the times is necessary. There are points that could even be taken as satirical from both perspectives, and it truly allows the viewer to make the decision for themselves rather than follow along. The final moments reveal Zahler’s ideals in the context of the film, and it is an expertly crafted callback to an earlier moment in the film. It’s the embodiment of a filmmaker in full control of his work. The runtime is rather long, yet the film has plenty of comical moments littered throughout. Aside from character building, it allows Dragged Across Concrete to not come across as a fully drab look at reality.
One of the few aspects Dragged Across Concrete suffers from is some odd editing choices. The violent moments are sometimes cut up in ways that removes the overall impact of the scene. Whether it is mimicking shlock action of the 70s or not, it still comes across jarring. That feeling luckily lasts for only a moment so it is nothing game-changing, but must be mentioned nevertheless. For a film as large as this, the fact that minor editing is the main problem seems like a good sign for Zahler and his team.
Overall, Dragged Across Concrete radiates self-assured filmmaking at every breath. As an in-depth character study that transforms into a full blown heist film, it never strays from its course. Zahler is not only making films that feel wildly unique, but they are extremely entertaining from beginning to end. More original filmmaking such as Zahler’s features should be commended and it’s a joy to witness his level of creativity only improving. His vision seems to be unwavering, and at the pace he is working, it can only mean many years of greatness will follow.
What do you love most about Zahler’s films? Let us know in the comments below!
Summit Entertainment will be releasing Dragged Across Concrete in select theaters and on VOD on March 22nd.