‘Dragged Across Concrete’ Film Review: Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson Are Dirty Cops in a Thriller That Might Be Trolling Us

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Overlong and indulgent but too often skillful to be dismissed outright, “Dragged Across Concrete” feels like an epic act of trolling for liberal audiences.

And I do mean epic: at two hours and 40 minutes, this Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn-starring story of two cops who decide to rob criminals after being suspended for police brutality exceeds any level of patience or tolerance for the poisonous, MAGA-friendly ideas that writer-director S. Craig Zahler (“Bone Tomahawk,” “Brawl in Cell Block 99”) refuses to acknowledge, much less take responsibility for in his film.

Gibson and Vaughn play Brett Ridgeman and Tony Lurasetti, seasoned detectives who break a fleeing suspect’s nose and belittle his half-naked girlfriend during a drug bust. A neighbor captures the injury on video, leading their superior Lt. Calvert (Don Johnson) to suspend them, just as Lurasetti is completing payments on an engagement ring for his girlfriend Denise (Tattiawna Jones) and Ridgeman’s daughter endures a humiliating assault on her way home from school. Eager to score some quick cash, Ridgeman decides to stake out a local safe house in the hopes that one of its inhabitants will lead to a drug deal he can interrupt, and Lurasetti reluctantly goes along for the ride.

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In the meantime, an ex-convict named Henry Johns (Tory Kittles, “Colony”) arrives home from prison to learn that his mother is not only using drugs but has also turned to prostitution to make ends meet for her and his wheelchair-bound little brother Ethan (Myles Truitt, “Kin”). Determined to lift them out of squalor, Henry teams up with a former associate named Biscuit (Michael Jai White) to drive the getaway vehicle for a group of criminals, led by the cutthroat Lorentz Vogelmann (Thomas Kretschmann), to rob a bank of its gold bullion. But when Ridgeman and Lurasetti’s stakeout leads them inevitably to Vogelmann’s crime, they are forced to reconsider the oath they swore as police to uphold the law, even as they encounter much more dangerous opposition than they ever expected.

Many great works of art have been made about — and by — reprehensible people, but thus far Zahler has largely declined to discuss the ideas within his films and especially the views they espouse, leaving audiences to figure out for themselves if this and “Brawl in Cell Block 99” are conservative screeds or just uncomfortably specific character studies for a certain white male point of view. Given their naturalistic, unhurried rhythms, the director’s films certainly owe a tremendous debt to a stream of consciousness disinterested in editing itself — for duration, much less content.

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But “Dragged Across Concrete” unfolds like a hard-working, blue-collar white man’s worst nightmare, and it never bothers to try and be anything else, from the talk-radio culture war talking points Ridgeman and Lurasetti regurgitate during meals or the treatment of the arrival of people of color in their onetime safe spaces as generally oppressive, be they the Mexican-American investigator codifying their brutality offense or the black kids that evidence Ridgeman’s notion that his neighborhood is going straight to hell.

The problem with that point of view is that there’s nothing new about it; even “Dirty Harry,” way back in 1971, had enough self-awareness to make Harry’s flinty relationship with his Latino partner a cheeky affectation. These characters are people who simply have not grown with the times, but the movie pulls a Principal Skinner and suggests that it’s really the world that’s gone wrong, not them. At the same time, Zahler’s filmmaking feels like the cinematic equivalent of “I’m not racist — my black friend says so,” filling in supporting roles with black and Latino actors who are either reduced to stereotypes or just plain mistreated. Sometimes both.

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A woman of color plays Lurasetti’s girlfriend, but ironically, theirs is the one relationship that does not get explored in real depth in the film; even Kittles’ Henry Johns, who proves honorable as he outsmarts cop and crook alike, doesn’t feel like a real person but rather a plot device designed to bring all of the film’s elaborately-explored threads together.

At the same time, it’s in those threads where Zahler does some occasionally fascinating, even exceptional work. Taking cues from movies like “Heat” that aspire to explore the interior lives of every character, no matter how insignificant, he allows the film to digress for minutes at a time to explore the masked henchmen acquiring the tools for the heist and, later, a bank teller (Jennifer Carpenter, “Dexter”) returning from maternity leave on the morning of the robbery.

These are more successful because they provide context and humanity for the deadly acts that are about to unfold. The ones that are less effective are the unbroken takes of Ridgeman and Lurasetti bickering during their stakeout, or the even longer shots of various drivers and passengers chugging from one location to the next in what sometimes feels like real time. That Zahler uses only diegetic music — and in particular, supremely terrible music that he himself composed for R&B luminaries The O’Jays to perform — feels like adding insult to injury.

Though much of the dialogue feels like it could have been crafted to comment obliquely on Gibson’s personal travails, Zahler mostly lets him off the hook while coaxing out a suitably unapologetic, grizzled performance from the onetime movie star. As a halfhearted moral compass to Gibson’s righteous certitude, Vaughn tackles the details of his character with enthusiasm and humanity, but even he can’t make lines like “Six people got punctuation” seem believable. Though he’s been working for almost two decades, Kittles feels like the big “discovery” of the film, but again, his purpose in the story feels more impactful than any sort of distinct personality that Zahler gives him.

Zahler’s wry humor as a scenarist and director wrings uncomfortable laughs from some virtually unimaginable scenarios, but given his fire hose-like creativity, it’s hard to know what was deliberate and what was accidental. Which is why ultimately, the director’s growing body of work may well resonate with exploitation fans as much as white nationalists; if you can’t peg down how much of it the filmmaker means, it’s easy to see it as outsider art and overlook the stuff that’s truly offensive. But at a certain point, not clarifying or taking responsibility for any of what’s in your films means you’re responsible for all of it, and Zahler is not unique, creative or talented enough to keep audiences guessing much longer.

“Dragged Across Concrete” is not a terrible movie, but it’s not so good that Zahler shouldn’t get dragged for it.



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Thanksgiving 2019: Lionsgate To Release MRC’s Rian Johnson Murder Mystery ‘Knives Out’ With Daniel Craig & Killer Cast

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate is set to partner with MRC and distribute worldwide Knives Out, the contemporary murder mystery that Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi helmer Rian Johnson wrote and is directing. Daniel Craig stars as a detective trying to solve …

Jamie Lee Curtis Joins Daniel Craig, Chris Evans in Rian Johnson’s ‘Knives Out’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Jamie Lee Curtis is joining Daniel Craig, Chris Evans and Lakeith Stanfield in director Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out,” an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

Curtis just starred in director David Gordon Green’s record-breaking “Halloween” sequel, which has grossed $87.2 million domestically since its opening last weekend.

“Knives Out” is described as a modern-day murder mystery in the classic whodunit style infused with Johnson’s original voice that informed films from “Brick” to “Looper.”

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Ram Bergman will produce “Knives Out” under Johnson and Bergman’s newly-formed production shingle.

Bergman has collaborated with Johnson on all of his feature films. Johnson will write and direct the MRC film. Production is set to begin in November.

Michael Shannon and Don Johnson will also star.

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Curtis’ other recent credits include “Veronica Mars,” “Spare Parts” and “You Again.” She is also known for her roles in “A Fish Called Wanda,” “Trading Places” and “Freaky Friday.”

She earned two Golden Globes for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy TV Series for “Anything But Love” and won Best Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy for “True Lies.”

Curtis is represented by CAA and PMK BNC.

Variety first reported the news.

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‘Deadpool 2’ Shoots to $18.6 Million at Thursday Box Office, Smashing Record for R-Rated Film

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“Deadpool 2” shot to $18.6 million at the Thursday box office, surpassing its predecessor which earned $12.7 million in previews two years ago.

The sequel also broke the R-rated Thursday box office record that was previously held by “It.” The horror film grossed $13.5 million last September in previews.

Independent trackers expect the film to at least match the $132 million opening weekend scored by the first “Deadpool” in 2016, which was then a record for February releases.

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For more comparisons, “Black Panther” grossed $25.2 million in previews, while “Thor: Ragnarok” thundered to $14.5 million. The former took in a total of $202 million its opening weekend, while “Ragnarok” grossed $122.7 million.

“Deadpool 2” sees the titular antihero start a new mutant team called X-Force to protect a young, surly mutant named Firefist (Julian Dennison) from falling into the clutches of Cable. In addition to starring as Deadpool, Reynolds shares writing credit with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, with David Leitch directing. Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand, and Jack Kesy also star. After early reviews, the film has an 84 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, nearly identical to the score earned by its predecessor.

As counter-programming, Paramount is rolling out “Book Club,” which earned $625,000 in previews. It stars Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen as a group of lifelong friends who decide to jumpstart their sluggish love lives after reading “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Tracking has the film only making $10-12 million from 2,800 locations, with Paramount projecting a $9 million start.

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“Book Club” is directed by Bill Holderman in his directorial debut from a script he co-wrote with Erin Simms. Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, and Richard Dreyfuss also star. The film holds a score of 61 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Finally, there’s Global Road’s “Show Dogs,” a kids’ action-comedy developed by Open Road Films prior to its acquisition by Tang Media Group. The film is expected to open to $7 million from 3,145 locations. The film stars Will Arnett as a human detective who must go undercover at a dog show with his canine partner (voiced by Ludacris). Raja Gosnell directed the film from a script by Max Botkin and Marc Hyman.

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It’s a credit to TV’s greater curiosity and openmindedness that when I beheld the four stars of “Book Club” — actresses ranging in age from 65 to 80 — my thoughts turned to how recently I’d seen them on their respective shows or in headlines about their upcoming series.

The ensemble romantic comedy benefits enormously from Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen keeping their comedic and dramatic muscles warmed up (though a stiffer Candice Bergen has her bravura moments, too). None of the women are asked to do anything too strenuous in “Book Club,” but their collective charisma — along with their male co-stars’ — add up to an irresistible charmfest.

The premise of “Book Club” sounds, to be honest, excruciatingly dumb: A quartet of elderly friends are inspired by the “50 Shades of Grey” books to spice up their sex lives. But first-time director Bill Holderman, who penned the script with Erin Simms, smartly adds a pinch of salt to the sweetness to amplify both sides of the flavor spectrum.

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The film’s aspirational, 60-is-the-new-40 fantasies feel grounded enough in emotional truths and aging concerns that the most unrealistic thing about these literate ladies, who deliver guffaw-worthy lines about Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” is that they never once mock “50 Shades” author E.L. James’ atrocious prose.

“Book Club” opens with an awkwardly Photoshopped snapshot of the four main characters in their youth, clinging to their copies of Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying.” Now a few years shy of 70, all but one feels erotically adrift. The exception is commitment-phobic Vivian (Fonda), a luxury hotel owner (in attention-grabbing animal prints) who’s happy as a lifelong bachelorette but finds herself drawn to an old boyfriend (Don Johnson) who’s visiting Los Angeles.

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The others are in various stages of sexual shutdown. The most resistant to an erotic rekindling is federal judge Sharon (Bergen), who internet-stalks her ex-husband (Ed Begley, Jr.) and his decades-younger new fiancée and seemingly hasn’t been on a date since her divorce 18 years ago. Chef Carol (Steenburgen), the only one friend still married, struggles with her husband’s (Craig T. Nelson) utter lack of interest in sex.

Widowed homemaker Diane (Keaton, in a first-rate set of her signature androgynous garb) is needled by her condescending daughters (Katie Aselton and Alicia Silverstone) to move to Scottsdale, where she can be stuffed into the basement and supervised 24/7. Diane shows resistance even before she meets a stranger on a plane (a positively smoldering Andy Garcia) who’s willing to show her everything she missed out on during her lackluster marriage. Richard Dreyfuss and Wallace Shawn make brief appearances, but somehow Sam Elliott does not.

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To be sure, “Book Club” has more goofy gags than it does witticisms. An arrow on a plant moisture meter twitches from “dry” to “wet” when a character gets lost in Christian Grey’s Red Room, and Nelson’s character is marched into several situations fly-first after a Viagra accident leaves him fuming and erect. The cast is just as game for the broad humor as it is for the emotional beats; the latter’s familiarity doesn’t detract from its poignancy.

As movingly as each character’s romantic and/or familial storyline wraps up, though, I wish the core cast had a few more scenes to themselves. They share such an easygoing chemistry — and the inevitable scene where the friends diagnose one another on what they’re doing wrong hints at such layers of friendship — that it felt disappointing that their decades-long bond wasn’t the focus of the movie. The men are a treat. But there isn’t quite enough of the women to comprise a feast.



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Don Johnson Cast In Verdi’s Historical Heist Drama ‘Vault’

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Actor Don Johnson has been cast in director Tom DeNucci’s Vault, joining co-stars Theo Rossi, Clive Standen and Samira Wiley in the Verdi Productions project.
Johnson will play the role of Gerry in a story inspired by true events. Written by DeNucci and B. Dolan, Vault follows a group of small-time Rhode Island criminals who in 1975 attempt to pull off the biggest heist in American history, stealing more than $30 million from the mafia.
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‘LA to Vegas’ Enlists Don Johnson for Guest Role

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‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’ Review: Vince Vaughn’s a Prison Crasher in Brutal Vengeance Flick

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

All along “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” S. Craig Zahler’s road-to-perdition follow-up to his similarly descent-tinged debut feature “Bone Tomahawk,” you can feel just as much what the writer-director is railing against in his genre choices as what he’s flexing.

Action heroes are too cheeky and boyish, so Vince Vaughn’s cornered bruiser is grown-ass, dedicated to his family, and stoic. Fights have become quick-cut messes, so these scraps will be in long takes, and you’ll be able to tell Vaughn is performing them. The stakes in these scenarios tend to be glib and empty, so this one will curdle your blood with the threat to the hero before dropping you into a medieval hell from which there appears no escape.

If it’s been a while since you’ve felt the cold blast and hard crunch of midnight-movie meanness, Zahler’s shaping up to be your guy — the one selling illicit thrills out of the trunk of a well-restored, vinyl-topped LTD — and with “Brawl,” he sets himself further apart from his more schlock-minded contemporaries in cult cinema.

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Vaughn, shorn of hair and sporting a thick cross tattoo on the back of his head, plays Bradley, a well-spoken former boxer who in his first scene, getting fired from his auto repair job, looks ready to do damage. (Asked how he’s feeling, his response is the tartly pithy, “South of OK, north of cancer.” He also corrects anyone who calls him “Brad.”)

It’s when he comes to their rundown home and learns that his wife Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter, “Dexter”) has been cheating on him that we get the violence appetizer, or amuse-bash: Bradley taking it out on their car with his bare hands. But then he and Lauren — each acknowledging a history of substance abuse, and circumstances that have been tough on the relationship — calmly talk it out and decide to give it another go, along with the risky decision of Bradley returning to work as a drug runner for old friend Gil (Marc Blucas).

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Within two years, though, they’ve moved to a swankier house, and the couple is closer: Lauren is happily pregnant and Bradley, who manages a smile referring to their forthcoming baby as “the koala,” is looking forward to paternity leave. A shipment pickup at the docks for a Mexican kingpin (Dion Mucciacito), however, devolves into a police shootout, albeit one in which Bradley, recognizing a no-win scenario, cuts down his own trigger-happy crew members (whom his instincts initially pegged as bad news) to prevent further cop bloodshed. Refusing to name names, Bradley gets seven years in a medium-security center, but he accepts his fate, knowing he’ll have a loving wife and kid to see on the flip side.

Zahler’s vibe until now, when his anti-hero is entering prison, is droll yet charged, a patient accumulation of heroic qualities and archly amusing, Elmore Leonard-like exchanges, although the conversational enjoyment “Bone Tomahawk” offered among its eccentric posse members was richer than the build-up here. But you at least know something’s coming to test Bradley’s zen-methodical aura of serene, principled masculinity beyond prison guard jokes about his height and one officer’s nagging attempts to get Bradley to join the boxing program.

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And that pivot into grindhouse territory, when it arrives, is a chilling one-two punch: a nervy home invasion scene with Lauren, and a prison visit by cartel envoy Udo Kier, who creepily explains — as if Kier had any other delivery mode — what will happen to Bradley’s wife and unborn child if he doesn’t rectify the botched smuggling operation by getting transferred to a certain maximum-security penitentiary and killing a specified inmate.

“Brawl” enters its mano-a-mano third act in the dungeon-like Red Leaf prison with a steady, serious cascade of Bradley-engineered aggression, in fights choreographed by Drew Leary for maximum pain and minimum style. Zahler and cinematographer Benji Bakshi, reteaming after “Bone Tomahawk,” eschew that western’s more textured frontier hues for the increasingly sickly, washed-out tones of a worsening nightmare.

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Vaughn, whose only worthy dialogue sparring partner in these scenes is Don Johnson’s cigar-chomping warden/torturer — a man fond of a shock-administering stun belt — fulfills the early promise of his imposing frame by bringing a vicious sense of righteous purpose to Bradley’s every body blow, limb snap, and pulverizing stomp. It’s like being scared and exhilarated at the same time, even if the aftertaste isn’t what you’d call pleasant. But it’s safe to say the motormouth rake of countless forgettable comedies is gone, and Vaughn has a bright Neeson-esque future cracking heads if he so chooses.

At over two hours, “Brawl in Cell Block 99” could test the mayhem anticipation levels of more attention-starved exploitation fans. But the fact that Zahler marches to the beat of his own pummeling fist, going so far as to get the O’Jays and Butch Tavares to expressively croon his own ’70s-inspired soul compositions, is part of the low-down, nasty, self-satisfied magnetism of this two-fisted exercise.

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Don Johnson, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss & More Board Bill Holderman’s ‘Book Club’

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: Don Johnson, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss, Ed Begley Jr., and Wallace Shawn have joined previously announced Andy Garcia in Bill Holderman’s upcoming comedy Book Club. The fellas as set to play the love interests to Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen’s characters, who are four lifelong friends in their 60s who read 50 Shades of Grey in their monthly book club and have their lives forever changed.
Holderman co-wrote the…

Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn to Reteam on Crime Thriller ‘Dragged Across Concrete’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn will costar in crime thriller “Dragged Across Concrete,” an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

The project, from filmmaker S. Craig Zahler, will be shown to buyers at the European Film Market in Berlin. WME Global is handling domestic rights, while Bloom is handling international sales.

The story follows two policemen, Gibson and Vaughn, who get suspended when a video of their strong-arming tactics gets leaked. With no other options and low on cash, the duo embark on a dangerous journey to the underworld, where they find things lurking that they didn’t expect.

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Keith Kjarval of Unified Pictures is producing alongside Dallas Sonnier under his new Cinestate banner, and Jack Heller of Assemble Media. Wayne Marc Godfrey and Robert Jones from The Fyzz Facility will executive produce. Unified Film Fund I is financing.

“‘Dragged Across Concrete’ is best suited to my goal of making a heartfelt, surprising, sad, funny, shocking, and memorable world with multiple viewpoints,” said Zahler in a statement. “As is often the case in my novels and screenplays, the protagonists are in perilous circumstances against which they struggle in different and surprising–though logical–ways.  I am absolutely thrilled to have Mel and Vince agree to play the lead roles.”

“Hacksaw Ridge,” which Gibson directed and in which Vaughn starred, is coming off six Oscar nominations, including one for Best Director and Best Picture. Andrew Garfield is nominated for Best Actor.

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Vaughn recently paired up with Zahler on “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” a prison drama that also starred Jennifer Carpenter and Don Johnson. Zahler wrote and directed the film that is currently in post-production.

Gibson is represented by CAA and Rogers & Cowan; Vaughn is represented by WME and Rogers & Cowan, and Zahler is represented by UTA.

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‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’: TV Review

Read on: Hollywood Reporter - All Reviews.

Netflix’s adaptation of the popular children’s book series ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ by Lemony Snicket is a horribly fun time.read more

First ‘Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events’ Trailer Teases Neil Patrick Harris in Disguise (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The first trailer for Netflix’s “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” teases a big, stylized adventure full of mystery, laughs and Neil Patrick Harris in many disguises as villainous Count Olaf.

Much like the 2004 theatrical adaptation of the beloved series of young-adult fantasy novels, the show follows the three Baudelaire children’s trials and tribulations as they try to uncover deep family secrets after placed in the care of Olaf, a distant relative, when their parents die in a suspicious fire.

“A Series of Unfortunate Events,” created by author Daniel Handler and executive produced by Barry Sonnenfeld, starts streaming on Netflix on Jan. 13.

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Patrick Warburton plays Lemony Snicket, while other familiar faces include Joan Cusack (Justice Strauss), Alfre Woodard (Aunt Josephine), Catherine O’Hara (Dr. Orwell), K. Todd Freeman (Mr. Poe), Aasif Maandvi (Uncle Monty) and Don Johnson (Sir).

Watch the video above.

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