Bone Tomahawk is one of my favorite movies from recent years. Regrettably, Zahler has not been living up to my expectations established after viewing that one, and Dragged Across Concrete is no exception.
Concrete is a crime drama that tells us the story of two police detectives, Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn), in a contemporary neo-noir setting. Because of Zahler’s brooding directorial style, the movie builds up suspense throughout it, and by the finale I felt concerned for the characters. I was pushed forward by the numerous loose ends in the plot and the foreboding vibe. The final act, a grand shootout, was done well — Zahler seems to be very competent when it comes to writing action sequences that are meant to place you on the edge of your seat nervously.
The characterization in this movie was not done as well as it was in Tomahawk. Zahler writes like a fantasy novelist, not a scriptwriter, so his style of dialogue complements high fantasy or historical settings better than contemporary ones. In this, the dialogue felt unnatural to me. The characters possessed odd idiosyncrasies that felt out of place and as if the writer was trying too hard to bring some quirkiness to the movie. Alternatively, it could be that Zahler’s efforts to direct Gibson and Vaughn failed and the actors didn’t grasp the personality of their respective roles. It is possible some viewers will appreciate the resulting offbeat quality of the movie, but for me, it broke my concentration more than once.
The poor editing also didn’t help. There were multiple scenes where the camera cut rapidly between characters while speaking brief lines. Because of the shoddy dialogue, this caused some scenes to feel awkward. I can’t recall there ever being a scene like that in Tomahawk and I truly believe it has to do with the style of dialogue complementing the setting of that movie better than it does for this one.
Overall, the movie seemed to lack a goal and the ending did not feel all that satisfying. Zahler demonstrates talent as both a director and a writer, and it is impressive that he is able to do both for his movies, but he is squandering himself by focusing on genres and hiring actors which don’t complement his style well. Unless Zahler focuses his material for what he is better suited for, I may stop paying attention to his work in the future.