(US/Canada/UK - 2019)
Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler. Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Don Johnson, Thomas Kretschmann, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Fred Melamed, Udo Kier, Tattiawna Jones, Justine Warrington, Jordyn Ashley Olson, Myles Truitt, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Noel G, Primo Allon, Matthew Maccaull, Richard Newman, Liannet Borrego. (R, 158 mins)
"I'm a month away from my 60th. I'm still the same rank I was at 27. I don't politic and I don't change with the times and it turns out that shit's more important than good honest work."
With his 2015 cannibal horror/western BONE TOMAHAWK and his 2017 grindhouse B-movie prison face-smasher BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99, musician and author-turned-filmmaker S. Craig Zahler established himself as a bold new voice in cult cinema (presumably as a goof, he also scripted 2018's PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH). Can one appropriately follow up a film where Vince Vaughn tears a car to pieces with his bare hands? Well, the gritty and amazingly-titled cop thriller DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE is Zahler's most ambitious provocation yet, weaving complex characterizations, multiple storylines, bursts of truly shocking violence and splatter and several startling plot turns into a compelling crime saga that runs a sprawling 158 minutes. Zahler's cache in genre circles hasn't come without controversy, with detractors hurling accusations of racism and branding his films as right-wing fodder for the Trump crowd. Cop, and by association, vigilante movies, have been labeled fascist fantasies for decades, going back decades to Clint Eastwood in DIRTY HARRY, Gene Hackman in THE FRENCH CONNECTION, and Charles Bronson in DEATH WISH. Zahler's characters do and say despicable things I don't see him defending or excusing their actions. Understanding the mindset of a political viewpoint doesn't necessarily mean tacit endorsement or justification. Perhaps it complicates things by showing that these characters have a human side and might be doing very wrong things for what they perceive to be right reasons, but Zahler isn't being overtly political here. It's more likely a sign of the times and the cultural environment where the younger generation of film critics have focused less on writing about the films and more about "hot takes," expressing themselves, airing their own grievances, looking for things to be offended by, and making a huge production out of how woke they are. That's really no way to watch movies, people.