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Dragged Across Concrete - Gibson & Vaughn - From S. Craig Zahler

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Not a great deal known about this one but it has just screened at Venice - reviews should be out later today. It's from S. Craig Zahler, who directed Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cellblock 99 (which also featured Vaughn). The film also features Michael Jai White and Tory Kittles. 

 

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In "Dragged Across Concrete," a stolid, old guard policeman, Ridgeman (Gibson) and his volatile younger partner, Anthony (Vaughn), find themselves suspended when a video of their strong-arming tactics become the media’s special du jour. Low on cash and with no other options, these two embittered soldiers descend into the criminal underworld to gain their just due, but instead find far more than they wanted awaiting them in the shadows.

 

It runs 159 minutes and has already been R-rated for grisly violence and imagery.

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I’m expecting good things. Bone Tomahawk was great, but Cellblock 99 upped it in every way. Hopefully this continues his run.

 

Wasn't there a picture doing the rounds of Vaughn and Gibson together?

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I reckon they’ve purposely shown as little as they can as a dig at modern trailers showing everything worth seeing and laying out the whole story in 2 minutes. After his first 2 films, I expect this to be brilliant.

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Enjoyed this a lot. It’s not as violent as Bone Tomahawk or Brawl in Cell Block 99. It has some really on the nose dialogue, to the point where people sound a bit weird. Sometimes I can’t work out whether it’s intentional or Zahler just has a tin ear — it does kind of fit his steady, almost stilted way of shooting. When watching his movies, I feel like it’s our world but there’s something a little off kilter. So the dialogue works most of the time.

 

I don’t think it quite lived up to it’s awesome title though. However, Vince Vaughn eating a sandwich is now in my top five sandwich eating scenes.

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I was just coming to ask where it sits on the nauseating violence scale. Is it Bone Tomahawkpause and catch my breath, Brawl; avert my eyes for a second, or Green Room; feel sick and turn it off.

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Been thinking about this film a lot over the weekend and I don't think I liked it. I really liked Bone Tomahak, liked Cell Block 99 a lot less and this even less again. 


 

Spoiler

 

I get that Zahlers shtick is long stretches of boredom where nothing happens that really push the patience of the audience - then a stab of outrageous violence. But this went too far. Scene after pointless scene with Mel Gibson doing that '25% chance, 60% chance' bit - that got real old real fast. 

 

I also found the nods and winks towards Gibsons real life racism a bit hard to take. The whole 'Oh everyone gets offended at everything these days' speeches pissed me off. Now I  don't know where Zahler is politically but I'll bet if I go looking on the scumbag parts of the internet I'll mind MAGA dickheads love this film. Not saying people in here who liked it are Trump-boys but I can see it appealing to that end of the spectrum. 

 

Having said that - the whole sequence from the robbery through to the armored car siege was incredible. Proper edge of your set film-making, that was surprising, horrifying and funny all in the space of a few seconds. And the final fight in the car with Gibson and the getaway driver was superb. 

 

 

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Question for those who've seen it (I liked Bone Tomahawk and loved Cell Block 99) - the Empire preview made it sound like it baits a lot of issues, if you have a bit of a bleak sense of humour and go see this in a cinema and laugh are you likely to get weird looks?

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I expected this film be a lot more unpleasant than it was, and not just in terms of violence. There's something off about Zahler's directing and dialogue, every scene stretched out, he seems to embrace slowness as though the scenes are more fascinating than they really are. 

 

It's kind of distinctive at least, and not quite boring. The film is flat, not remotely tense or exciting and i didn't care about the central characters. They don't interact like normal people, so much of the film is talking in moving vehicles it's like GTA 4 missions where you have to put up with loads of talking before you drive to the mission start point. I don't think they were witty enough, the percentage thing got on my nerves too, that weirdly calculating way of looking at situations as though they're elite marksmen at the top of their profession and not just average cops. They share the same motivations as the characters in Triple Frontier, and when i think back to that film i remember Isaac's passionate speech, i remember their human interactions, little asides. 

 

Like with Cell Block 99 Zahler plays out action in a detailed cumbersome way, it's so far from being slick and while I'm not gripped by it it's strangely compelling. The last 45 minutes were the film at its strongest but i couldn't understand why it was playing out like it did, i kept thinking; what are they doing? Why aren't they doing this other thing? etc. 

 

Zahler did an interview with Scroobius Pup a few years ago that's worth listening to. He's aggressively obnoxious, with multiple chips on his shoulder. 

 

Spoiler

That character switch with the woman was so jarring, and why can't Zahler laugh his head off setting it up to mock her pleas moments before her head is shot to pieces? It comes across as weirdly cruel, like these films are like stepping inside Zahler's upset mind. Maybe his cruelness is more showing harsh reality and he's completely genuine and he's trying to make a point and fudging it. Again his offness is just always there. I couldn't make sense of her relationship with the father of her child. That whole scene is fucking weird, like i need to unpick it with someone else. Unhealthy abusive relationships can exist in films too, except when Zahler does it it's just weird. 

 

Then her welcome back at work was creepy, how the robbers play from a tape another instance of Zahler doing things differently. Then how that guy thought he could discuss his help email with the two robbers stood seemingly two yards away monitoring them. 

 

Maybe i have a tame mind incapable of grasping how much this film is expressing, i read letterboxd reviews and it's like we saw different films. 

 

like:

 

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This is a masterpiece of ensemble-casting, of exterior and interior motivations, written like a shard of glass cast towards flesh. Every line, in the moment, sounds and hits like the greatest piece of dialogue in the world. Zahler has truly perfected a novelist tendency of stretching out and framing scenes, sequences, and even little tidbits of emotion, with a stark landscape of visual imagery. The camera set-ups are almost Lynchian, employing harsh, particular lighting, a serene development of movement and staging, in addition to his trademark clumpy, wet ultra-violence (don't expect Brawl In Cell Block 99, but it's furious when it counts).

 

or:

 

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Zahler's best movie yet, in its way his JACKIE BROWN, an exploration of race, police power, class, and crime. 

 

i dunno, i think The Wire in 48 hours explores race, police power, class and crime. 

 

There are other films I've watched that really capture the value of humans, the waste of war, others capture alienation and depression and they're so striking, I'm not lost, but other times it's like a film becomes nothing more than a series of things that happen, there is no overarching impression. 

 

this is one of those times where I'd be really keen to read what lordcookie thinks of Zahler's films. 

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Strange film, like Coen and Tarantino crime thrillers collided, but lost all the black humour and snappy dialogue in the accident. SCZ was clearly in thrall to both, and others, but he does have his own awkward style too.

 

As much as I love a slow burner, this was achingly, almost aggressively slow. Sometimes there was a purpose, but other scenes had a real latter-day Tarantino-esque self-indulgence to them - not least you, Jennifer Carpenter and masked sidekick #1 back stories.

 

I would echo other comments in that I enjoyed this less overall than his previous two but, on the other hand, I didn't feel that I entirely wasted the many, many hours it unfolded over.

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Watched this last night. Awful, awful film.

 

There was just nothing interesting or exiting throughout. Even the big set piece that was the whole point of the film was just dull.

 

I also thought it was really quite racist. Were we really supposed to empathize with a main character who's main motivation was that he believed that a white girl living near black people was literally guaranteed to get raped at some point? It also seemed to go out of its way to go "black neighbourhood. Black people committing crime". It also pretty much started with "it's not racism, its political correctness gone mad!"

 

And: what was the point of the whole "I don't want to leave my baby, oh look I'm dead" thing? Or the two random shit robbery / murders? And what was going on with the improbably good shooting at times? And do we really believe someone fresh out of prison could fence a load of gold and buy a massive house without attracting the attention of the authorities?

 

Overlong, boring and unpleasant.

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11 hours ago, ScouserInExile said:

Overlong, boring and unpleasant.

 

I fly more than I should and I was gagging for something, anything, to pass the time with and even in this mindset, I landed just about here.

 

There were moments that were interesting, the initial setup one fire escape, the shoot out at the end, but the villains they dredged up out of a horror story (yeah, I guess that's the point) and the long periods of dialogue with unsympathetic characters didn't help.

 

I guess you need to be looking for something specific.  I "liked" Bone Tomahawk for what it's worth but like that, I'd definitely not be in a rush to see it again.  Ever.

 

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On 26 January 2020 at 19:30, ScouserInExile said:

 

Were we really supposed to empathize with a main character who's main motivation was that he believed that a white girl living near black people was literally guaranteed to get raped at some point? 

 

 

Did Gibson co- write?

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I really enjoyed it. 

 

With Zahler's next film being a Jim Henson produced version of his own novel Hug Chickenpenny, perhaps he is about to go off in a new direction. Maybe we'll look back on Bone Tomahawk, Brawl In Cell Block 99 and now Dragged Across Concrete as a run of films which, while containing very much their own stories, feel like they belong to each other like a set of pulpy paperbacks in an old bookshop or dvds lurking at the bottom of the bargain bin. Still, what a run. If you like character acting, slow set ups and grim ultraviolence that is. Actually, I'd probably leave Bone Tomahawk aside and have Cell Block and Concrete making up a great crime double bill. Along with the shared casting, the violent threat set up in Cell Block haunts Concrete throughout, you know that when the shit goes down it's going to be very unpleasant indeed. Each movie informs the next in that regard and I like that Zahler is seemingly conscious of this. These are dark places that even society's monsters fear to tread, the bright rewards too enticing to their corrupted souls. There are no heroes, only victims and people that make bad decisions. Its bleak, its grim, its bad - like lasagna in a can.

 

I went into the film expecting all sorts of gruesome visuals, especially considering how evocative the title is, but I came out of it with a different view. Vince Vaughn's character says something about having a line that he won't cross, that it's set in concrete. Also, his partner, Mel Gibson gets told its not healthy to scuff concrete for as long as he has - it will make you lose perspective and compassion. Or in the words of the film "Couple more years out there and you’re going to be a human steamroller, covered with spikes and fuelled by bile." He has, of course, already crossed that line and will ultimately pay the price for what he has become. I don't agree that we are meant to empathise with his character, other than pity him and his approach to his situation. In fact, I see him as the villain of the film from letting people think the worst about his daughter's 'assaults' to dragging his partner across concrete. 

 

I can't wait to see what he does with muppets!

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On the subject of empathizing with the main character (Mel Gibson), I don’t think you have to. It’s just all laid out there for you to make your own judgement, warts and all. Besides, it soon becomes apparent that the true main character is played by Tory Kittles. He’s the heart of the story.

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