In ‘Dragged Across Concrete,’ B Movie Tropes and Tarantino Worship Don’t Mix

If you have ever complained that Hollywood movies have a much too liberal slant or are too mired in political correctness, than “Dragged Across Concrete” is the movie for you. It’ll be your cup of tea if you believe crook-coddling rules and the invasive media hamper cops — or all Hispanics are drug-dealers. Better yet, if you harbor fears that if you live in a predominantly black neighborhood, your white daughter is going to be raped when she turns 16, then you will love “Dragged Across Concrete.”

That is what the woebegone protagonists believe. Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn), soured after years of not playing the game and being rewarded for such, are caught on tape brutalizing a suspect and are suspended for two weeks. Wallowing in the unfairness of it all while facing certain financial disaster from not receiving a paycheck for two weeks, they do what any cop would do under the circumstances. They make plans to commit a major crime.

Ridgeman has caught a whiff of a major hit about to happen and he is going to be there to take the ill-begotten goods for himself. Lurasetti is there for support, and because he doesn’t think he can support his fiancé on his salary.

They stake out a mystery bad guy who hangs out in a concrete bunker. His name is Lorentz Vogelmann (Thomas Kretschmann). His accomplices are some guy with gray gloves and some guy with black gloves. Both guys are completely masked in black garb. Their shared dominant character trait is firing guns, killing innocents and shooting up liquor stores. We never see them with their masks off. We never see Vogelmann in close up (okay, maybe once). Except for their nasty attitudes, they are all ciphers.

Along for the ride are Henry (Tory Kittles) and Biscuit (the great Michael Jai White). Hired as drivers for the master criminals, they disguise themselves in white face. Henry has just been released from prison and has to earn some serious dough to stop his mother from being a hooker.

What follows is a bloody heist, a stealthy chase scene, and a climatic shootout where the truly evil villains, who previously have shown themselves to be detail oriented and total pros, become stupid. At the end, the costumed villains, Henry, Biscuit, and the buddy cops face off against each other in a duel to the death.

Political leanings have nothing to do with whether a movie is bad or good. There have been good and bad movies from all sides of the political spectrum. But dialogue that sounds more like a rally speech than actual conversation isn’t helpful. Even Ridgeman’s sympathetic wife Melanie (Laurie Holden) spouts dialogue like, “I am as liberal as they come, but.” One can assume the dialogue won’t venture much beyond cliché.

Any discussion of the merits of this movie will have to focus on its script. “Dragged Across Concrete” is an hour and a half crime movie stretched out to two hours and 39 minutes. Failed attempts at profundity abound. The narrative, already hampered by seemingly endless dialogue between Ridgeman and Lurasetti, or Henry and Biscuit, stops dead when we find ourselves following newly-minted mother Kelly (Jennifer Carpenter) on her first day back on the job after four weeks of maternity leave. Her husband has chain locked the door to prevent her return. After all, babies are expensive and Kelly makes more money than hubby does. So off to work she goes. She arrives just in time for the heist where she’s shot. While dying, she holds out a bloody knitted bootie, pitifully begging her killer to make sure her baby gets it. It’s roughly ten minutes of overwrought pathos that suggests a filmmaker who doesn’t trust his audience to “get” the drama the first time.

Craig Zahler wrote and directed the movie. He even did some of the music. One can’t help but wonder what kind of film this would have been if he had not suffered from delusions of Tarantino. It might not have been a great film, but its failings would have had less screen time.

Dragged Across Concrete” opens March 15 in select theaters.