LFF 2018 Preview - Dragged Across Concrete
Dir: S Craig Zahler
Starring Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Udo Kier, Don Johnson
S. Craig Zahler brought the brutal with Bone Tomahawk, then went full on exploitation in Brawl in Cell Block 99. For his third movie, he (initially) takes a more reserved approach, setting up a group of characters whose lives are destined to intersect in ways that take some time to fully grasp. Thus we meet Kittles’ recently released con looking for a way to provide for his family, Carpenter’s young mum, almost phobic about returning to work after maternity leave, and Gibson’s veteran cop, and his younger partner Vaughn, suspended from duty largely for PR reasons after a reason bust was filmed on a camera phone.
One of the strengths of Zahler’s film is how much time (and it’s a lengthy film at 2 hours and 40) he spends establishing these people. There is backstory here that is not needed but the film benefits from it, all the while beguiling the audience as to how and why we are spending such time with these people.
As the film progresses, we realise we are slowly being drawn into a heist-gone-wrong story – but one that strives for originality even as events spiral out of control.
It’s impressive in many, many ways – not least its sustained last hour as events descend into violent chaos. But its one fundamental flaw remains its dialogue. Zahler aims for a very formal set of speech patterns, in an almost stylised manner, which aims to create a unique worldview but often threatens to become too arch. Thus Vaughn always says “Anchovies” when frustrated, Gibson always offers percentages on the outcome of every situation, they both refer to perps as “inbeciles” – it’s a very mannered way to try and create something original, but remains just something very mannered that almost unbalances the film. Plus, it allows for everyone to be both extremely expositional – fully explain situations to characters that should already hold this information, and runs the risk of making all the characters sound like one person – i.e. the writer-director trying to be original.
It’s a drawback, but thankfully not one that undermines an otherwise impressive, and definitely gripping movie.
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