March 30, 2019
When I heard about a year ago that a movie starring Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn was going to be the anti-Black Lives Matter film, I was a little bit excited.
Dragged Across Concrete was written and directed by the weird B-movie Jew S. Craig Zahler, who made the pretty good and relatively politically incorrect western film Bone Tomahawk with Kurt Russell.
So it was believable to me that Dragged Across Concrete, made on a budget of a mere $15 million, could be a gritty and ultra-violent niche film for people who hate blacks.
And that is the way the media was reacting to it.
For example, leftist culture blog The Ringer recently introduced the film thusly:
S. Craig Zahler doesn’t care if you don’t like his new movie.
That’s a relief, because many of you won’t. Like Zahler’s previous films, Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Bone Tomahawk, Dragged Across Concrete is a fifth of genre rotgut, an agonizing and corrosive journey into hell, punctuated by spasms of extreme violence. The title is a warning. The running time, 159 minutes, is another warning. Add to that the casting of Mel Gibson, persona non grata in many circles, and a solid percentage of the moviegoing public won’t make it past the right column of the film’s Wikipedia page. And this is before grappling with Zahler’s politics, which may be significantly more fraught than his harshest critics contend, but nonetheless drift into Breitbartian sentiments about police brutality, racial tension, the scourge of inner-city neighborhoods, and other issues likely to bubble up on grandpa’s Facebook page. Even for those who can stomach Zahler’s work, which can be as challenging in their unusual longueurs as they are in their shocks, a film like Dragged Across Concrete is contentious viewing, especially if you’re not on its ideological wavelength.
But that is not at all what it is.
The only good thing about this movie is the name and the fact that it stars Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn. Every other aspect of it is severely lacking. A few isolated scenes are okay on their own, I suppose, but the poor dialogue kills what would otherwise be aesthetic.
I’m not even going to bother avoiding spoilers here, so if you’re actually interested in watching this film and want to try to be surprised, you can stop reading. But you won’t be surprised, because the plot is entirely predictable after the first 15 minutes anyway.
The only element of anti-PC ideology in the film is that Mel and Vince, who both play beat cops in a fictional city designed to represent any American urban landscape, are suspended at the beginning of the film for getting caught on a cellphone camera abusing a Mexican drug dealer.
And then there is the plot point that Mel wants to get out of his neighborhood because there are too many blacks and he thinks they’re going to rape his daughter, which is why he decides to go rogue and rob a criminal, which is the actual plot of the film.
Other than that initial setup, there is nothing shocking about this film. The level of political incorrectness in it is nothing compared to the average Eastwood or Bronson film from the 70s or 80s.
In fact, bizarrely, Vince Vaughn’s girlfriend is black. And the only reason you would make that decision when casting this film is to say “this isn’t at all racist,” which defeats the purpose of marketing a B-movie as anti-PC.
And of course, the ultimate hero of the film is a black guy, while the criminal villains are – wait for it – Germans.
The German actor who plays the main German villain is a guy who has played Nazis almost exclusively throughout his career.
Mel and Vince both die trying to take down the Germans and get the money, but the black hero sends a portion of the heist money to Mel’s wife so she can get out of the dangerous black neighborhood.
So basically, this film is a “I specifically requested the opposite of this” situation.
The only possibly redeeming quality is that Mel and Vince are not portrayed as “evil white men,” but instead downtrodden anti-heroes who are “just doing what they have to do to get by in the world.”
Aside from the political and ideological messaging of the film being problematic, every other element of the film is problematic.
It is like it was written by a middle schooler. The dialogue is stilted and awkward, the characters are only as moving as the actors playing them, and the plot is barebones.
Towards the end of the film I found myself thinking “well, at least there aren’t any plot holes in the film, which is saying a lot for a modern movie” and then a stupid plot hole was simply dropped in for no reason other than to make the black hero seem very smart.
The direction was okay, to be fair. Some of the scenes pulled off the “gritty hardcore violence” bit very well, and tension was sufficiently built.
The two minute scene with Don Johnson as the police chief giving them their suspension and a lecture about how “times have changed and everything is political now” was pretty okay.
There is a small vignette that shows a woman, played by Jennifer Carpenter, who has recently had a baby and doesn’t want to go back to work arguing with her husband about how she wants to stay with the baby.
Her husband forces her to go to work – because she makes more money than him at the bank – where she is killed by the Germans. That entire bit was well done. The bit itself is very cliche, but cliche was what was advertised, so Zahler at least delivered on that little part.
The film is nearly 3 hours long, however, and the “oh that was neat” bits are few and far between. The final shootout is a letdown, and you are left feeling as though you’ve been tricked into wasting three hours of your life.
I do not recommend this film be watched even out of curiosity. It is not worth the time.
If Mel Gibson wanted to make a politically incorrect 70s-style buddy cop thriller with Vince Vaughn, he should have just written and directed it himself. It is somewhat impressive that the film was made on $15 million dollars, and if Mel had done that, he could have just distributed it himself and put out a movie that was actually good.
I understand that Mel is in exile from mainstream Hollywood because of that stuff he said about the Jews when he was drunk 15 years ago, but a low-budget movie is a low-budget movie, and no one is stopping him from making those.