I was at a crossroads this week as to which film I should review. Netflix had The Dirt, the bio picture about the 80’s hair metal band Mötley Crüe. I was never a fan of their music or hair metal in general, so I was less thrilled about having to write several pages on it.
But I thought it wasn’t bad. It was trashy as all hell, but insanely entertaining. It’s a great contrast to last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
The other film out worth reviewing was the new Jordan Peele horror film Us. I’m dealing with a slight cold and I really didn’t feel like going out to the theater.
Thankfully most of S. Craig Zahler’s films go straight to VOD. They also get a limited run in theaters, but I only care about one thing, and that’s being able to watch this 2 and half hour film in the comfort of my own home where my cat can jump on me for taking her spot.
Ever since Bone Tomahawk, I’ve been a fan of S. Craig Zahler. Everything he has directed I’ve enjoyed, though until Dragged Across Concrete that was only two films.
I believe the only film that S. Craig Zahler directed that I reviewed was Bone Tomahawk. For some reason I never got around to reviewing Brawl in Cell Block 99, an absolutely fantastic film that pretty much cemented my love for his movies.
The ones he directed at least as you might remember me ranting about how much I hated Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, a film he wrote but didn’t direct. I’m also not the biggest fan of Asylum Blackout, another film he only wrote.
When I heard that Mel Gibson was going to be in his next film however, I was ecstatic. I’ve always been a big Mel Gibson fan, even with everything going on with him at the time. And was happy to see him return to being in front of the camera instead of behind it.
And partnering him up with Vince Vaughn as two corrupt detectives… look out! After just finishing season 3 of True Detective, I was itching for something to satisfy that itch until the new season of Bosch comes out on Amazon.
I mentioned it briefly before but the runtime for this one is almost 3 hours long. Any film with that long of a runtime makes me wonder if things could have been cut. And I will say I did find some instances where that could be true.
We are first introduced to Henry, an ex con that just got released from prison on a robbery charge. After spending some time with a hooker, he comes home to find his mom hooking.
After threatening her john with a baseball bat, he delivers what I thought was some clever dialogue with his mother.
Wondering why she’s hooking, she replies that money ran out and he retorts with I see his footprints up and down your arm, referring to the fact that she’s a junkie.
I thought that was a good example of the dialogue in this movie. Everything people say has a weighted kind of noir hardboiled feel to it.
Henry has a younger brother in a wheelchair that loves videogames, wanting to one day become a game designer, creating his own videogame.
Something I myself contemplated not long ago.
A lot of the story to Dragged Across Concrete might not seem clear at first. There’s a bunch going on and nothing really seems to connect at first. While most of the story is going on, we are treated to random scenes of two separate men decked out in tactical gears, black masks and gloves. Of course I didn’t even know these were two separate people at first. The credits only refer to them as Black Gloved Robber and Grey Gloved Robber. I never once looked at their hands, so I could never tell them apart.
The first one, shows up at a gas station to rob it, or what seems to be a robbery, but in reality is a test run for a bigger crime. After killing the clerk and a passerby, he tests out his silenced machinegun on items around the shop.
The other robs two randoms in their car, stealing pocket lint and blowing their brains out.
We don’t know why this is happening or how any of this connects.
The same with Jennifer Carpenter’s role. She plays a new mom that hates leaving her newborn to go to work. We spend a bunch of time with her character debating if she should go to her day job or not.
In retrospect, she should have stayed at home.
Our main leads are Brett and Anthony played by Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn. They play two hardened detectives that like getting a little rough with their perps.
While on a drug bust, a neighbor secretly records Mel’s character Brett stepping on a man’s head while his partner cuffs him.
Taking heat for that incident, the two are put on leave until this mess blows over.
Mel is pushing 60 and has no promotion in sight. Because of his low pay, he is forced to live in a bad part of the city where his daughter is constantly harassed on her way home from school.
To make matters worse, Mel’s wife is suffering from I think they said MS. She was a detective like her husband but can no longer work do to her illness.
That just leaves Brett, Mel’s character as the main breadwinner. With him getting put on suspension, it puts him in a difficult spot.
Vince Vaughn’s character Anthony is dealing with his own issues with money, as he fears he can’t support his girlfriend on his cop salary once they get married. But before that he still needs to work up the courage to propose to her.
Needing cash, Brett pays a known criminal a visit. The known criminal in question being played by new S. Craig Zahler favorite, Udo Kier. He owes Brett a favor for something he did in the past, now he’s here to collect.
He wants info on an easy score where he can get a lot of cash with little risk.
That turns him on to Vogelman.
Vogelman is in town for a bank heist. He has hired Henry and his pal Biscuit as driver and lookout. He also commissioned for an armor plated van where even the tires are bulletproof.
His muscle are the two violent gloved robbers.
Brett and Anthony stakeout Vogelman’s known location, waiting for him to leave so he can lead them to his cash. After a couple of nights parked next to a dumpster and Anthony’s concerns growing, Vogelman finally shows himself.
As he leaves with Henry and Biscuit, Anthony wakes Brett and the pursuit begins.
They think they are meeting some place to exchange goods, cash or drugs maybe both.
As they follow them, morning comes and they drive to the city where they enter a building under construction. In the parking garage, the two gloved robbers are waiting, loading up the armored van.
Brett and Anthony start to put the pieces together, these guys aren’t meeting to exchange goods. They’re going to rob a bank.
Conflicted with what to do next, they decide to just keep following them.
Henry and Biscuit have disguised themselves as white armored car drivers for the bank.
Now enter Jennifer Carpenter’s character. This was actually the most shocking part of the whole film, so if you plan on seeing this movie, I suggest stop reading now as we are getting deep into spoiler territory.
We spend a good amount of time with Jennifer Carpenter, her not wanting to leave her baby to go to work. Eventually her husband convinces her and she takes the bus.
We find out she works at the same bank Vogelman and crew plan on hitting.
From what I thought since she’s the only other known cast member, I figured they’d take her hostage and Brett and Anthony will have to change their strategy to free her.
As the robbers take the bank over, they warn the manager if anyone gets out of line or isn’t where he says they are, in front of the bank, they will cut his balls off.
Normally that’s just a threat to scare them to get them to do what they need them to do. However, after showing us the gloved robbers’ test runs, we know these guys are violent psychopaths. They will kill you in an instant with zero hesitation and that’s exactly what happens.
Jennifer Carpenter is tasked with zip tying everyone’s hands, noticing that one of the bankers has typed out an email reporting the robbery. He moves to send it but she jumps in the way to stop him.
One of the gloved robbers opens fire, blowing off her fingers. As she lies bleeding on the floor her face explodes as they finish her off.
As the crew drives away, Brett and Anthony drive by the bank, see the bank manager had his balls cut off and has taken a woman hostage.
Now normally, like I mentioned before, Jennifer Carpenter would be the one taken hostage, not the one to get brutally murdered by our bandits, especially since we spent so much time with her character.
Brett and Anthony tail them, following them to the drop off.
In the armored van however, things have taken a turn.
Henry and Biscuit complain about how badly the job went, with several people killed and a hostage taken. After that, they are put on the crew’s shitlist, forcing them to stow their guns away.
Knowing pretty well that once Henry and his friend outlive their usefulness to them, they are going to get a bullet in the head.
Henry foresaw something possibly going wrong and stored two extra guns for them.
As Henry is forced to open the locked door to the farm where they are keeping a second vehicle.
Biscuit tries getting away but is shot, Henry exchanges some gunfire but is forced to leave his buddy behind.
Thanking fast, Biscuit swallows the keys to the van.
But a little indigestion won’t stop this crew as they cut him open and rummage through his stomach for the key.
Brett and Anthony take point behind the van, using Anthony’s military sniper rifle to take pot shots at them with.
Not getting anywhere with the heavy armor, they decide to just ram the van instead, knocking it on its side.
Trapped in the van, the robbers come up with a plan. They release their hostage, but tell her she needs to kill Brett and Anthony or they’ll have people visit her family.
She obeys, crawling towards Anthony who unlike Brett is still in cop mode.
Letting his guard down, she shoots him in the face and chest behind his protective vest.
Brett kills her and runs to Anthony’s side where he has one last request. He wants to listen to the phone message his girlfriend left after he proposed to her.
Seems she says no. Kind of a shitty way to go.
Mel is in full berserker mode now, taking out the rest of the robbers, but is confronted by Henry who filmed the whole thing. The two decide to work together to help cover this mess up and split the money.
But Brett fucks up and pulls a gun on Henry, fearing he’d keep the blackmail material.
After a quick exchange, Brett takes a bullet and slowly bleeds out, pleading with Henry to help his family out.
A few months pass and Henry and his family are living large with the gold they stole. He does however keep up his part of the bargain and gives Brett’s family a very small share of the gold.
I of course enjoyed the hell out of this movie. S. Craig Zahler has a style all of his own that is hard to pin down. Like Tarantino, he revels in the exploitation genre. I can see Dragged Across Concrete being a great companion piece for something like Jackie Brown.
His hardboiled dialogue at times seemed out of place, but unlike say something Guy Ritchie would write, this moved more like poetry.
Another thing that caught my eye or should I say ear, was the lack of music or score. The only time for the most part where we hear music is if it is playing on the car radio.
Other times it’s mostly eerily silent.
Around the third act with the standoff, things got intense. The last thing a film like that needed was an old 60’s pop song queue up. That’s one thing S. Craig Zahler is great at, grabbing your attention, keeping us in knots until he decides to release you.
He did it in Bone Tomahawk when Kurt Russell and company got taken by cannibals and he did it in Brawl when Vince Vaughn had to fight his way to the target he is meant to kill in prison.
The man is on a roll with these films. I hope he can keep it up as I look forward to whatever he does next.
This gets a wholeheartedly SEE IT. Clear your schedule, it’s so worth your time. If this is your first foray into S. Craig Zahler films, check out Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99. I believe everything should be available on Amazon.
Next week I’ll be reviewing another new Netflix original with The Highwaymen.
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