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Over the last few years, S. Craig Zahler has quietly established himself as one of genre cinema’s most exciting filmmakers. Well, maybe not quietly — “Bone Tomahawk” and “Brawl in Cell Block 99” abound in broken bones, cracked skulls, and tenderized flesh whose every violent wound registers with a sickening thud. These aren’t pleasant experiences, and yet they’re made with such skill that they’re impossible to dismiss as mere grindhouse fare — Zahler knows what he’s doing, and anyone watching knows it, too.
The writer/director is back at Venice for the second consecutive year with “Dragged Across Concrete,” which reunites him with “Brawl” star Vince Vaughn alongside Mel Gibson in an excruciatingly good inverted police procedural that finds the line between cop and criminal at its most porous. Those familiar with Zahler’s priorfeatures will be on edge for every one of the film’s 159 minutes, as they’ll know how quickly and brutally the violence can come; the film isn’t quite as graphic as its predecessors, thank heavens, but to say that it still isn’t for the faint of heart would be an understatement.
Brawl - Cell - Block - Title - Refers
As with “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” the title refers to something that doesn’t happen until the end of the movie — and this time it isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Gibson and Vaughn are Brett Ridgeman and Tony Lurasetti, respectively, two cops in the fictional Bulwark Police Department inclined toward excessive force and other frowned-upon methods. They’re suspended after being caught on camera doing something they shouldn’t have, leading them to see how the other side lives, and you can probably guess how that works out for them.
Here his two leads here are both strapped for cash, and as he nears 60 with an ailing wife and frequently harassed daughter in their not-so-great neighborhood, Ridgeman is more...
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