Wednesday 8 January 2020

A New Film a Day in 2020 (3) - Dragged Across Concrete (S Craig Zahler, USA, 2019)

S Craig Zahler has made three films. Only the most determined have been able to track them down. I think all went straight to DVD at least in this neck of the woods. The latest, Dragged Across Concrete,had posters up for screening at the Randwick Ritz then it seems plans changed and suddenly they and the film were gone from the local. Whether it did in fact do any theatrical business is not known. No matter, it’s out on DVD as are Bone Tomhawk (2015) and Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

If you are starting at this end of Zahler’s career with his biggest movie to date Dragged Across Concrete, once viewed it calls out to uncover the others quick smart. The latest film runs for 151 minutes, including eight minutes of credits and is as bleakly Hawksian as a modern movie can get. Scenes just eat up time – scenes sitting in cars on a stakeout, a bollocking from the Chief Lieutenant of the local police force who has to break the news that their latest arrest was filmed by someone on their phone and its going on the news that night.

Their policing methods of the two buddies, Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) a thirty year veteran of street work and his latest partner Luracetti (Vince Vaughn) are less than exemplary but they have put away enough to fill ‘two, maybe three, wings of the local prison”. The city is called Bulwark. You wonder if the Film Commission of British Columbia, where the film was shot, insisted that there be no reference to Vancouver or anywhere else. The bleak urban locale where cops are so poorly paid they have to live in the ghettos alongside the criminal life is very well represented.

The action unfolds so languidly that you get a lot of time to speculate on who will be last-man standing and you get a lot of dialogue (written by Zahler) which uses words not normally used by police or criminals. It suggests everyone has at least a college education. You also get a bunch of songs which Zahler co-wrote, heard on radios, in a manner that might make George Pelecanos envious. The movie zips past in a series of static medium shots, even in the shootouts where the only spice is some rapid editing, most notably in the robbery sequence and the final shootout. Then it’s back to quiet resolution.

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