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Review: Dragged Across Concrete – “A painful and precise, brutal and brilliant slow burn”

Dragged Across Concrete is written and directed by S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk), and stars: Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon), Vince Vaughn (Swingers), Tory Kittles (True Detective), Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead), Don Johnson (Machete) and Udo Kier (Blade).

Sexist misogynistic detectives Ridgeman (Gibson) and Lurasetti (Vaughn) get busted brutalising a suspect on some secretly-filmed incriminating mobile phone footage, and their chief (Johnson) suspends them without pay. Lurasetti wants an engagement ring and Ridgeman wants to move himself and his wife, Melanie (Holden), to a nicer area – so both cops can’t afford to not be earning.

Meanwhile, Henry (Kittles) has just got out of prison on parole and agrees to a bank robbery with gangster Biscuit (Jai White) to get his sex worker mom and disabled son into a nicer apartment. Lurasetti finds out about the planned job via his jeweller (Kier) and himself and Ridgeman set out to track the robbers and take the money off them after the heist.

Dragged Across Concrete is another signature Zahler film. It’s a lengthy and tough film, full of crackling dialogue and bursts of hard-hitting graphic violence. The pace could have been languid, but as our two sets of characters fates are inexorably drawn closer and closer together the film becomes unbearably tense – with tier one performances and singular writing ticking it along.

Side characters shine, even smaller roles like Udo Kier’s dodgy dressy diamond dealer Friedrich and Laurie Holden’s “I’m not racist but…” ex-cop housewife. Ill-fated bank employee Kelly (Carpenter) seems like one of the only “nice” characters in the film – and the build-up to her going into work on the day of the heist is excruciatingly set up and agonisingly played out.

In Zahler’s ugly world we realise that the two “criminals” are actually what comes closest to heroes: committing a crime, but at least for “good” reasons and eventually showing more moral fibre than the police when things inevitably go south.

Dragged Across Concrete is not an easy film and not a safe space. It’s full of bad people saying bad things and doing bad stuff, but it’s an intense and highly charged combination of Tarantino level dialogue with Michael Mann-esque patient pacing that leads to a dynamite denoument. Zahler’s work is instantly recognisable now, and his style and voice are those of an American auteur as exciting and original as he is confrontational.

Dragged Across Concrete is a painful and precise, brutal and brilliant slow burn. A ruthless pitch-black throwback crime thriller with rock hard dialogue and no mercy.

Dragged Across Concrete is released in the UK on the 19th of April.

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