If someone were to design an atomic bomb that would detonate within the discourse, it would look very much like S. Craig Zahler’s Dragged over concrete, now streaming on Netflix. Mel Gibson, who plays a violent (and arguably racist) cop prone to excess violence, is fodder enough. But the film also makes him the hero of a story that affirms a worldview and mindset rarely seen on screen…yet shared by many people off it.
The essentials: Partners Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) belong to the end justifies the means police academy, even if that means being…well, pretty mean. A brutal beating on a fire escape against a Hispanic subject earns them a six-week suspension from the police when their behavior is caught on tape. For Ridgeman in particular, the incident becomes a straw that breaks the camel’s back. His wife, also a former police officer, struggles with MS. His daughter has been attacked in her neighborhood for the fifth time in two years. He’s been at the same rank for 30 years because he refuses to keep up with the times and relies on his work to advance him.
Ridgeman decides to take matters into his own hands for his future survival and takes Lurasetti with him on the journey. Her exploits, with no regard for human life, put her squarely in the crosshairs of a professional thief. For the disgraced duo, apprehending and breaking into these criminals becomes not just a matter of self-interest – it also delivers justice and restores order according to their own worldview. Ridgeman meets his peer in one of the henchmen, the recently paroled Henry Johns (Tory Kittles), who is subtly quite clever at using extralegal means to get ahead in life.
Which movies will it remind you of?: The blueprint is dirty harry but even more embittered and offended by right-wing media. There is no claim that they can resolve their dissatisfaction with their city’s criminal underbelly through any legitimate institutional process or remedy.
Notable performance: There’s no doubt that Gibson suits the film’s sombre tone best, but it’s Vince Vaughn who really stands out as the film’s most impressive actor. Those who only know Vaughn through his comedic work may like wedding crasher will find it impressive how much he sublimates this larger-than-life person into the character of Lurasetti without completely skimming it off. It just feels very human and natural how he can allow himself to be a little goofy one moment and a little gloomy the next.
Memorable dialogue: “Being branded a racist in today’s public is like being accused of communism in the ’50s,” says Don Johnson’s Chief Lieutenant Calvert in a brief cameo to convey the film’s guiding ethos. Whether you agree with the value statement or not, it’s a crucial point to state the lens through which these law enforcement officers see the world – and their seemingly diminished place in it.
gender and skin: The very first scene of the film shows Henry making love in a motel room, which might make you think Dragged over concrete is as tough on sex as he is on violence. But after this premiere, the skin only shows up in decidedly unsexy contexts, where women are stripped and humiliated by cops and criminals alike.
Our opinion: Alright, it’s time to address what this piece has been dancing around so far – is Dragged over concrete problematic? Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler may claim he is not a political filmmaker, but what is shown on screen simply does not support that. Nobody in the film wears a MAGA hat, but it’s not hard to see that this film is very attuned to the “deep story” that underpins the worldview of many conservative Americans. In this narrative, crime (mostly committed by blacks and browns) is out of control. Hardworking people trying to keep the world safe are paying the price and suffering as violence explodes because the police are too focused on being politically correct to get the job done.
Zahler doesn’t let vigilantism, racism and ruthless conservatism run wild…nor is he afraid to let them win like a mainstream Hollywood film. The film likes to show how cruel the criminals are, not afraid to show the full barbarity of their violence – and using a young, white mother as a metaphor for the perfect victim. The thinnest of the thin blue lines separates Dragged over concrete from becoming American Carnage: The Movie.
Whether you agree with this vision of America or not, it is widespread in the country – and any attempt to counter it must first understand it. There is a value for movies like Dragged over concrete exist and try to represent this case in a way that is fully realized so that people understand the power of persuasion this type of narrative can have on people. In the first hour or so one can find an almost anthropological interest in breaking through this type of psyche, which favors aggressive, immediate intervention to protect a status quo that the characters perceive as endangered. But it starts, um pull in its back half when a protracted armed showdown between the rogue cops and the robbers brings the film to a halt. Payer doesn’t necessarily earn every 160 minutes he gives the audience, but there’s plenty of time worth pondering.
Our appeal: Stream it. Dragged over concrete is a conversation starter that compels viewers to engage with worldviews and ideologies that they may find deeply uncomfortable with. It’s a little easier to sort out your feelings about these things by engaging with them as narrative, not as political propaganda. While it’s certainly not a pleasant watch thanks to its brute force and bloated runtime, the Darkness deserves discussion and consideration.
Marshall Shaffer is a New York-based freelance film journalist. Besides Decider, his work has also appeared on Slashfilm, Slant, The Playlist and many other media. One day everyone will realize how right they are Spring breakers.
Regard Dragged over concrete on Netflix
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