Tuesday, May 21, 2019
DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE: GOOD GONE BAD
I’m quickly becoming a fan of director S. Craig Zahler. His first film was BONE TOMAHAWK, an ultra-violent western that surprised many when released. His second film was BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 which allowed actor Vince Vaughan a chance to flex his acting muscles as well as his real ones. Now he brings us his third film, DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE.
The film tells the story of two beleaguered police detectives, Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vaughan) who are just doing their jobs catching criminals. Unfortunately while the people they apprehend are drugs dealers, pimps and worse, their methods are a bit extreme when it comes to violence in the eyes of the public. A takedown of a drug dealer after sitting on a fire escape for hours is caught on cell phone and the two are brought in for reprimand.
Chief Lt. Calvert (Don Johnson) points out to them that times have changed and their methods are no longer acceptable. It’s less about their methods and more about public perception, perception that’s only increased in negativity with everyone now having cell phones to capture their behavior. He suspends them without pay to satisfy the media. Keeping Ridgeman, his ex-partner, behind Calvert tells him he needs to change his attitude or he will forever be on the streets.
With a daughter being threatened on her way to work in the neighborhood they live in and a wife suffering from MS, Ridgeman is willing to do what he can to change his fortunes. He approaches a criminal he’s used for information in the past about doing a job for him. We don’t know until later what that job actually is.
While this is taking place we also have the story of Henry Johns (Tory Kittles), an ex-con just out of prison, who returns home to find his mother turning tricks in the apartment she shares with his wheelchair bound brother. Kicking out her latest client he tells her to stop her ways and that he is there now to take care of things. In need of something big he contacts his friend Biscuit (Michael Jai White) and the two become drivers for a bank heist.
Which turns out to be the job Ridgeman accepted. Not robbing the bank but following the man planning the heist, Lorentz Vogelmann (Thomas Kretschmann). While tracking him over several days he and Lurasetti discuss whether or not Lurasetti will be involved. With money issues of his own and in the midst of preparing to propose to his girlfriend, Lurasetti decides to join.
While trailing Vogelmann they don’t have time to learn his plans and are witness to the heist as it goes down. Rather than call in the police, they trail the bad guys, hoping to take advantage of the situation and steal the loot for themselves. But the well armored bad guys aren’t going down without a fight.
As with his previous films Zahler presents a bleak world where reality kicks in early on and a bright and shining ending isn’t predicted before the end credits roll. Our two anti-heroes here, police who work hard to do what’s right and receive virtually nothing in return but hard times and battered reputations, are sympathetic in their plight. We can understand why they make the decision that they do even if it isn’t the right one. We feel for them. At the same time we feel for the problems faced by Henry Johns as well. Perhaps the only unsympathetic characters are Vogelmann and his actual team.
The violence depicted in the film is brutal at times but perhaps not as much so as in Zahler’s last film BRAWK IN CELL BLOCK 99. Still this is no glossed over shoot ‘em up with bad guys falling down after being shot. This is full on in your face action when it takes place. The killing of a bank employee is perhaps the most startling and extreme, a character we get to know prior to execution. It jars the senses when it takes place.
In the end I enjoyed the movie and still think that Zahler has a big career ahead of himself. Perhaps my only issue was the film was the length. At 2 hours and 38 minutes the story could have been trimmed down a bit and the film would have moved along at a brisker pace. That being said it is still a movie that deserves attention but was dumped straight to disc without much of a theatrical run, much like his previous efforts. At least it gives us the chance to see this director develop into a driving force in film. At the same time it provides us movies to view that are not the norm but worth watching all the same. .