The first serious problem with Dragged Across Concrete is it’s painfully slow, especially in the first act. I seriously almost left because it just dragged and felt like it was going nowhere. Writer/director Zahler rushes nothing…absolutely nothing. The two-hour and thirty-nine-minute runtime feel like five hours. Our introduction to Mel Gibson’s character opens with him squatted, gun drawn, on a fire escape next to his suspect’s window. Our attention is soon placed on a lit cigarette placed on the railing. Below is a mysterious figure walking up the escape steps and the vibration of his movement causes the cigarette to fall, revealing it’s the Vince Vaughn character.
Both action and dialogue are slow and measured and gets excruciating at times. Clearly intentional on the part of Zahler, especially when we’re treated to a laugh-inducing sequence focused on Vince Vaugh eating a breakfast sandwich in the car. It’s all part of the film’s art, I suppose.
“…if I were ever confronted with the issue of whether violence in cinema is gratuitous, this is the movie…”
Things pick up…slightly, once the action starts. Zahler creates great tension as the robbery and ballet of blood and murder begins. Jennifer Carpenter takes a significant role in a subplot that comes out of nowhere and makes you want to kill yourself when you realize the direction of her character. Zahler lays the pathos on thicker than maple syrup. The way that leader Vogelmann manipulates and murders his victims are mesmerizing, troubling, and dare I say gratuitous at times.
Dragged Across Concrete becomes this dance at the end, as our focus on Gibson and Vaughn trying to steal the goods in a warehouse gunfight shifts to the film’s real star, Tory Kittles. As Henry, all he wants to do is give his mother and brother a better life by being the underestimated criminal tactician. Revealing any more would ruin the mental chess-game he plays with Gibson at the end.