Film Review: Dragged Across Concrete

S. Craig Zahler’s latest film Dragged Across Concrete is uncomfortable yet often enthralling viewing. 

Two cops get suspended from the police force for using excessive force. The pair decide to descend into the criminal underworld in order to get compensation, but the payday is anything but simple…

Ostensibly a crime thriller, with a two hour thirty-nine minute run time, Dragged Across Concrete is a sprawling tale of various parties with eyes on a big prize. Writer-director S. Craig Zahler’s film does not follow a predictable path. Instead red herrings are dropped, as audience are taken on a diverging journey.  

The optics of protagonists who are racist cops aren’t great. But perhaps this is the point. Dragged Across Concrete gives no comfortable heroes to root for. Instead there are only villains of varying degrees, and victims of little consequence. Is the message of Zahler’s film is that it is ok to be onside with the least worst? This is unclear. Despite some good dialogue elsewhere, there is a stilted scene in the police lieutenant’s office which seems to solely project a view of the tired “pc gone mad” diatribe. The impression given is that cops aren’t meant to be the heroes here, other mindsets may place them as anti-heroes however. This is an uncomfortable balance. Nevertheless, there is plenty to ruminate on. 

There are a few sets of characters, none of which are archetypal heroes. Instead the spectrum ranges from the flawed, necessity-based criminal to the out-and-out villain. Yet the villain does not fill the role expected. The showdown is something else, with a good deal of tension, despite the duration. With characters trying to outwit each other, it is not clear who will come out on top. 

There are several violent sequence, but less of the prolonged brutality viewers may expect after Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Bone Tomahawk. The sound design is a definite bonus. Vince Vaughan delivers a solid performance. Tory Kittles also stands out. The role of Richmond made more uncomfortable given Mel Gibson’s history. 

Dragged Across Concrete gives viewers plenty to mull over. As a director, Zahler has delivered his third solid film.