2018 | DIR. S CRAIG ZAHLER | STARRING: MEL GIBSON, VINCE VAUGHN, TORY KITTLES | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
His latest offering is DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE, a sprawling buddy cop film starring Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn. It is a jarring film, which showcases Zahler's knack for ultra violence, while yielding to a wider demographic, and despite it reaching a new audience, I suspect that it will also test their patience. With two highly regarded films under his belt Zahler seems to have been given more freedoms this time around, and perhaps this is why DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE struggles to live up to the hype and over stays its welcome.
The film hits the ground running with a fantastic opening sequence featuring Gibson and Vaughn in action who are introduced when crossing the line during an arrest. They are good cops who subscribe to outdated policing and when they overstep the line by getting heavy-handed with their perpetrator, and they find themselves suspended for six weeks when footage of the incident was leaked to the media. Desperately needing the money for his family Gibson's character hatches a scheme to steal money from some bad guys. He convinces his partner to help and it isn't long before they've gotten themselves in too deep having crossed the point of no return.
The synopsis reads well and narratively speaking it's a good plot. But the problem with DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE is its pacing and mismanaged humour. Gibson and Vaughn are perfectly cast and they play off each other really well, and their own real-life ordeals in Hollywood make them the exact type of badasses that the movie needs. The first act even references their notoriety when their chief (Don Johnson) comments on Hollywood's need for a villain... (trust me, it's contextual). But from the moment these guys are suspended from duty, the film drops a gear and applies the breaks. What ensues is a long-winded series of dialogue-driven stakeouts, idle banter and a whole lot of nothing. I won't reveal the nature of the story's final act, only to say that we would have reached this destination a lot sooner, and more effectively, had they cut an entire hour from the running time. 160-minutes is simply too long for a movie of this nature. Sure, Michael Mann did it in Heat, but he also had the experience to pull it off. And Tarantino had no issue with the same duration in Pulp Fiction, but that's because he loaded every scene to the max. Unfortunately Zahler squandered his time-frame and sacrificed attention-spans in doing so.
The cast is excellent and Gibson and Vaughn deliver strong performances. Their rapport is natural and their relationship off-screen shines through. Gibson had previously directed Vaughn in Hacksaw Ridge, and with both men subscribing to similar politics and world views, their on-screen dynamic was bound to be fluent. Gibson's ongoing comeback in Hollywood is a welcome return and with each prominent role he accumulates, those past sins feel absolved. With his character here being of a different era, he finds the perfect note to plant his tongue firmly in his cheek by adopting the very attitudes that got him in trouble in real life. His makes for an honest and humble turn. Their supporting cast includes Don Johnson and Jennifer Carpenter, whose roles are relegated to featured-cameos. Others on board are Tory Kittles, Laurie Holden and Thomas Kretschmann. All give measured and reliable performances which add to the integrity of the film's aesthetic.
It is so frustrating that when reflecting upon this film there are so many positives to acknowledge. Isolated scenes and various tropes of the genre elevate its potential, but when none of these things align cohesively it's difficult to receive the film favourably. My hope is that it will benefit from repeat viewings, and I have no doubt that it will translate better as home-entertainment. The intention is obvious and admirable, but the execution is spasmodic and unfortunate. More restrain was needed but never given, and if ever there were a film begging for a shorter director's cut... it's this one. Anchovies!