It is clear from his film, Dragged Across Concrete (2019), that writer-director S. Craig Zahler wants to bring urban realism back to cinema. A fictional city, Bulwark, is meant to be a typical significant American city with all its crime and tension. Bulwark might as well be today’s Minneapolis, and, in point of fact, a policeman played by Mel Gibson gets suspended from his job for doing something a bit similar to what Derek Chauvin did. He does it not to a black man but to a Mexican (there is no rioting), albeit black criminals are certainly here. White ones too.
All the while, the facts of life are conservative, not liberal. No one in the film is actually woke. The wife of Gibson’s Officer Ridgeman (Lauren Holden) fears she has become a racist. There is enough racist—and “racist”—language to make any liberal elite shed a pansy tear. And Jennifer Carpenter, as John Nolte describes, enacts “a professional woman desperate to be home with her baby, to be a full-time mother.”
Concrete is a fascinating movie, a disturbing caper tale. It is carefully shot with few closeups and contains cool, curious dialogue, even if Zahler’s writing seems slightly inauthentic in the film’s last fifteen minutes. Looking intimidating, Gibson is okay but in an easy part. Tory Kittles is in a harder one and succeeds memorably.