Dragged Across Concrete (2019)
Directed by S. Craig Zahler
I don’t know if novelist and filmmaker S. Craig Zahler can be described as bigoted, but I know his film “Dragged Across Concrete” can be. I haven’t seen his other two films, “Bone Tomahawk” and “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” but by all accounts, they offer similarly racist themes. Can a movie be good if it enforces racist stereotypes about African Americans and Latinx people, includes jokes about the LGBT community, and refers to African Americans using the n-word and the word “blacks” (which, somehow—maybe because it was said by a disabled white woman—felt even more abrasive)? It definitely doesn’t help.
After being suspended following a race-related on-duty incident, Officers Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn)—both in desperate need of money—decide to follow a tip to find and rob a kingpin and his cronies. But the criminals are better prepared than the two veteran cops expected.
For “Lethal Weapon” star Mel Gibson, the “I’m too old for this shit” tables have turned. But Gibson isn’t grizzled…he’s disheveled. He’s not ready to play detective characters anymore. He doesn’t look the part. I don’t think he’d pass the physical. Unfortunately, though, Gibson feels like the perfect choice to play an out-of-touch racist! I like Vince Vaughn in dramatic roles, but I can’t buy him as a cop or a racist, and even if he’s fine in the role he can’t save the movie. Don Johnson, “Miami Vice” megastar in the ‘80s, pops up to play a police captain who has a big problem with the mainstream media and the #MeToo movement, though, thankfully, those exact phrases are not explicitly spoken. Still, his daughter, “Fifty Shades” actress Dakota Johnson, should be ashamed of her father’s dialogue. It sounds like it was written by the imbeciles over on “Fox and Friends,” and for a solid minute I paused the movie and considered giving up on it, 25 minutes in. But I soldiered on, and the distasteful dialogue didn’t let up. Gibson’s character uses the words “gay hair shit” to describe hair dye. His wife, played by Laurie Holden, is sure their daughter will soon be raped by “blacks” because of the neighborhood they live in. Her character also just looks racist, somehow. She says (I’m not entirely sure these are the exact words, but I think they are), “I never used to consider myself a racist, but…” after her rape comments. Vaughn’s character uses the exclamation “Anchovies!” instead of curse words. It’s not offensive language, but it makes no sense at all. If the title of a movie ever perfectly described how the viewer feels watching that movie, I present “Dragged Across Concrete.”
But, I hate to admit, Zahler and his team are not entirely incapable of making a movie look good, at least. “Dragged Across Concrete,” for all of its offensive dialogue, is not nearly as offensive when it comes to the behind-the-camera stuff. Its cinematography and editing are strong, and the tone it sets stays consistent throughout. It feels, at least, like a good slow-burn action movie. Though, occasionally, it’s a bit too slow. Its real-time scenes of extended conversation last forever, and its action sequences, while exciting, are few and far between. And, also, it can’t be ignored that the movie reinforces negative stereotypes about racial minorities and women and gets pleasure out of insulting them for humor. It caters to an audience I don’t believe should have their views validated. There have been action movies that were much more poorly made, but few have promoted such vile ideas of the world. I don’t think movies like this should be made.