Dragged Across Concrete (2018)

Dragged Across Concrete
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Writer: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Thomas Kretschmann, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Don Johnson, Udo Kier, Fred Melamed, Justine Warrington
Part of: /slash Filmfestival 1/2
Seen on: 4.5.2019

Content Note: racism

Veteran cop Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and his younger, more volatile partner Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) are caught on tape using excessive force on a black suspect. They are suspended when the tape reaches the media. Ridgeman decides to turn to crime himself in this forced downtime: he and Lurasetti plan to take over a robbery of which they get wind. Part of the robbery crew is Henry Johns (Tory Kittles), just released from prison, who came home to find the poverty of his family completely overwhelming. Without other options, he lets himself get roped into the robbery plot. But things don’t go according to plan for anybody.

I was this close to not watching Dragged Across Concrete. Zahler’s last film – Bone Tomahawk – was racist crap. That he then turns to make a film that is a whole lot about racism and casts Mel Gibson, a known racist and antisemite, in the lead is insensitive to say the least. But then I figured, I had an all-access pass to the festival and I may as well give this film a go. Well. I should have listened to my gut and saved myself because the film is just as racist as the last.

The film poster showing the main characters in red paint that looks like something was dragged over the white poster background.

Racial relationships are fraught and filled with the pain of centuries. The (Western) world is undeniably white supremacist and POC, especially Black people experience violence every day. And it’s not just person-to-person violence, it’s systemic violence. When you make a film about white cops and black ex-cons/thieves, there is no doubt that you’re diving right into all of that. That means that you need to be critical of structures, aware of oppression and you need to be sensitive to all of the hurt attached to the entire thing. This goes twice for white people (like me) and is thrice as difficult for us.

Zahler doesn’t give a damn about any of that, though. While he does recognize that there are some systemic issues at work here, that doesn’t mean that you have to draw any critical conclusions, I guess. And that there is such a thing, still, as personal responsibility for your own actions, despite systemic issues, also hasn’t arrived yet (and I’m talking about the cops here). So, instead of any critical interrogation, the film is much more interested in humanizing those two dirty, racist asshole cops who are the embodiment of everything wrong with the police force but are somehow still supposed to be good guys in a way? What the fiuck?

Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) and Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) in a car.

To add insult to injury, the film was too long and becomes so unnecessarily complicated that it doesn’t even make any sense anymore. So even if you’re white and unaware enough to ignore the racial fuckery here, the film doesn’t deliver either. And when the entire thing with the baby happens, I just wanted to scream from frustration.

Shortly after that, I did fall asleep, more or less out of protest. Everything else I saw of the film was not in the slightest bit better, though, and I’m happy about every second I missed through my nap.

The entire bank staff with their hands in the air.

Summarizing: racist shit.

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