- 03 May 19
Vicious potboiler crime film is written and cast to attract the MAGA crowd.
Directed by S. Craig Zahler. Starring Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, Thomas Kretschmann. 159 mins. In cinemas now.
This review has to start by acknowledging the almost unbelievable privilege, arrogance and industry support enjoyed by Mel Gibson. Multiple video and audio tapes showed him being openly racist against black, Jewish and Mexican people, as well as proving that he hit his ex-wife and threatened to kill her and have her gang-raped. Nonetheless, Gibson has been welcomed back into Hollywood.
Gibson’s presence in S. Craig Zahler’s Dragged Across Concrete isn’t just noteworthy; it affects our understanding of the entire film. S. Craig Zahler, whose previous work includes Bone Tomahawk and Brawl In Cell Block 99, has garnered a reputation for making films for the MAGA crowd. The director has avoided these readings of his work by claiming not to be political – but casting Mel Gibson as anything, let alone an abusive, misogynistic racist is a political choice. It’s that simple.
And politics are at the forefront of Dragged Across Concrete, as Gibson and Republican darling Vince Vaughan’s violent cops frequently discuss the ills of liberalism in America while waiting to abuse criminals, and later, after they are suspended for police brutality, and planning to rob a drug dealer to make some extra cash. They feel justified in their politics and their plan – the liberal media has robbed them of the ability to beat criminals without consequence, so they’re taking their power back.
The language in Zahler’s screenplay is deliberately provocative, as is the violence which, like his other films, is particularly nasty. Shoot-outs leave a mother bleeding over her baby’s sock. A man is castrated for the sheer thrill of it. A body is hacked to pieces to locate a swallowed key. The pacing is indulgent, allowing the gruesome violence and offensive tirades to marinate.
Zahler is skilled – his understanding of exploitation films and potboiler crime dramas is evident in his visuals, editing and interweaving plot strands. But when you hire racist actors to spew racism in a film designed to attract and excite racist audiences – you’re no longer playing with exploitation as a genre.
You’re playing with exploitation. And that will prevent many people – this reviewer included – from finding any entertainment or escapism here.