Dragged Across Concrete (Blu-ray) (2019)

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Released 27-Nov-2019

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Film Noir Featurette-Making Of-Elements of a Crime
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Moral Conflict
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2019
Running Time 158:27
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By S. Crag Zahler
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Mel Gibson
Vince Vaughn
Tory Kittles
Michael Jai White
Laurie Holden
Thomas Kretschmann
Don Johnson
Udo Kier
Fred Melamed
Jennifer Carpenter
Justine Warrington
Jordyn Ashley Olson
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $24.95 Music Jeff Herriott
The O'Jays
S. Craig Zahler


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The third feature film from writer-director S. Craig Zahler, 2019's Dragged Across Concrete is a new manly classic for the ages, further verifying the filmmaker's immense talents behind the camera. Zahler happily preserves the distinct filmmaking idiosyncrasies glimpsed in both Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, with Dragged Across Concrete another mesmerising exercise in engrossing character interaction and drama, punctuated by moments of extreme, wince-inducing ultraviolence. It's a slow-burn, but it never feels cumbersome or unnecessarily overextended, as Zahler keeps the movie on a tight leash, delivering superb submersion into this neo-noir world brimming with hard-boiled dialogue. Dragged Across Concrete is a tough sell for more sensitive viewers due to its decidedly un-PC dialogue, the graphic violence, the prolonged 158-minute runtime, and the lack of any prototypical good guys. It's not for everyone, but those who enjoy this type of masculine entertainment will consider Dragged Across Concrete an absolute godsend.

    A veteran street cop, Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) has grown bitter with the world, with a poor salary forcing him to live in a bad neighbourhood with his MS-stricken wife Melanie (Laurie Holden) who's unable to work, as well as his teenage daughter Sara (Jordyn Ashley Olson) who is often assaulted whilst walking home from school. Brett's younger partner Anthony (Vince Vaughn) also dreams of a more stable financial future, planning to propose to girlfriend Denise (Tattiawna Jones). When Brett and Anthony are caught on camera roughing up a Mexican drug dealer during a bust, Lt. Calvert (Don Johnson) places the two men on suspension for six weeks without pay, a tough break that neither of them can afford. Seeking to sort out his financial situation for good, Brett enlists Anthony's help to track the movements of career criminal Lorentz Vogelman (Thomas Kretschmann), who is planning a heist to steal gold bullion. Vogelman's team includes a wheelman in Henry (Tory Kittles), who returns to criminal activities after his release from prison to provide for both his destitute mother and disabled brother.

    There is much to unpack in terms of narrative, with Dragged Across Concrete switching focus between the parallel storylines throughout, but Brett and Anthony receive the lion's share of screen-time, with their suspension the impetus which leads to the story's final destination. As demonstrated in his previous efforts as writer and director, Zahler's dialogue is uniquely poetic and exhibits unending wit, whilst simultaneously feeling organic and unforced. In particular, the bantering between Brett and Anthony is a perpetual source of joy and amusement, sparkling like an early Quentin Tarantino screenplay. A bulk of Dragged Across Concrete's second act involves Brett and Anthony performing surveillance in cars, replete with idiosyncratic banter. The runtime also allows the movie to spend time with Kelly (Jennifer Carpenter), a new mother on extended maternity leave who is reluctant to return to work at a local bank. Although the side plot may seem superfluous at first glance, it generates almost unbearable tension during the subsequent robbery, adding humanity to a brutally violent showdown.

    Zahler keeps Dragged Across Concrete welcomely free of political grandstanding and virtue signalling, though the movie does have things on its mind regarding the state of the world in 2019. Brett and Anthony get results, but their methods are considered too barbaric in the 21st century, with the omnipresent threat of digital eyes putting them under unwelcome scrutiny. Brett is expressly bitter about the modern world, refusing to adhere to increasingly strict standards of political correctness, which is why he is still a street cop after three decades on the force. Nevertheless, this material merely serves as subtext to colour the story and the characters; Dragged Across Concrete is an apolitical movie featuring humans who realistically interact and have opinions, with Zahler choosing not to dilute sometimes harsh reality for mass consumption. Furthermore, much like Brawl in Cell Block 99, the main characters here are anti-heroes for all intents and purposes, but they also have a moral compass, and themes of morality do permeate the movie.

    Shot by Zahler's loyal director of photography Benji Bakshi, who favours sturdy tripod shots as opposed to incomprehensible handheld cinematography, Dragged Across Concrete unfolds at a deliberate yet enthralling pace, with editor Greg D'Auria (another regular Zahler collaborator) permitting the action to unfold in prolonged full shots. Indeed, there is no shaky-cam or rapid-fire editing here, nor is there any overt computer-generated imagery to mar the sense of realism or authenticity, with the director achieving a practical aesthetic. Relying on old-school blood squibs and practical special effects, Zahler aims for the old-fashioned cinematic sensibilities of '70s exploitation cinema, on top of evoking the period's mean, unrelenting mood (think Martin Scorsese). Although set-pieces are scarce, the action beats are outstanding when Zahler cuts loose. Additionally, the soundtrack was one of the most notable aspects of Brawl in Cell Block 99, and thankfully Dragged Across Concrete similarly delivers, with a killer selection of catchy songs and a memorably moody original score. Zahler makes the most of the modest $15 million budget, polishing the film to perfection, making the end result look as if it was made for a considerably higher amount.

    Dragged Across Concrete boasts Zahler's most impressive ensemble cast to date, featuring a number of familiar faces. In addition to Gibson and Vaughn, the supporting cast boasts the likes of Michael Jai White, Laurie Holden, Thomas Kretschmann, Jennifer Carpenter, and more. Brawl in Cell Block 99 alumni (and excellent actors in their own right) Don Johnson and Udo Kier also appear in a single scene each, adding to the production's colour and flavour. The pairing of Gibson and Vaughn is superb, and the thespians submit some of their finest work to date here - Gibson nails the grizzled, tough-as-nails veteran cop, while Vaughn again shows off his fine dramatic chops, reminiscent of his equally top-notch work in Hacksaw Ridge. Kittles, meanwhile, has bounced around the sidelines of films and TV shows for years, featuring in the likes of True Detective, Olympus Has Fallen, The Sapphires and Sons of Anarchy. Although not as well-known or as recognisable as his co-stars, Kittles exudes enough gravitas and talent to convincingly play Henry, who has an unexpectedly large role to play in the proceedings. Suffice it to say, the rest of the performers are equally sublime, with White most notable playing Henry's childhood friend Biscuit.

    Let's not mince words here: Dragged Across Concrete is a full-blown masterpiece. It's a mean, stylish, enthralling and often hilarious crime-thriller, brought to life by the most talented new directorial wunderkind currently working in the industry, and performed by a superb cast. Zahler is a rare type of filmmaker who hopes that his movies are enjoyed, but refuses to sell out by making creative choices to broaden audience appeal. Additionally, Zahler displays no sentimentality towards any of his characters, meaning that no matter how familiar the actor, they can be killed off at any time. As a result, it is genuinely difficult to take your eyes off the screen, and Dragged Across Concrete is relentlessly heart-stopping and gripping despite its intimidating running time. Added to this, it confidently stands up to repeat viewings.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Director S. Craig Zahler's Dragged Across Concrete finally arrives on Blu-ray in Australia (it has been available since April in the United States) courtesy of Icon (though the disc is actually being distributed by Madman Entertainment). The movie was captured at 8K resolution using Red Weapon Helium cameras, and was actually completed at 4K resolution. In the U.S., Dragged Across Concrete can be streamed in 4K with High Dynamic Range, but unfortunately no 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc was released anywhere in the world, which is a real tragedy. Icon's 1080p, AVC-encoded high definition transfer presents this 158-minute neo-noir crime film in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and it's thankfully placed on a dual-layered BD-50, sharing disc space with the 47 minutes of special features. This results in a respectable average video bitrate of 25.99 Mbps, and though Icon's presentation is no match for what a 4K Blu-ray would have been able to provide, the transfer is still quite lovely on the whole.

    First things first, the entire transfer carries a slightly smooth and glossy appearance on the whole; it looks like a degree of digital noise reduction was applied to the source. Just see the coverage of Don Johnson during his scene at the 22-minute mark, or even coverage of Kittles in the van at 102:07, which looks smooth and smeary despite the bitrate for these shots hovering around the 33 Mbps mark. I did not see the movie theatrically on the big screen and therefore cannot comment whether or not this is a source issue, but Region A Lionsgate Blu-ray looks virtually identical in this sense, so I don't think Icon tinkered with the master they were supplied with. Despite this, for the most part this is a pleasingly sharp and detailed Blu-ray transfer which makes for a satisfying watch on my 65" 4K OLED screen. When the transfer is at its best, which is mainly in generous daylight, object delineation is strong, revealing intricacies on skin, facial hair, costuming, sets and environments. When Brett and Anthony are on the fire escape in their first scene, the early morning blue hue is faithfully maintained, and textures are frequently strong - particularly in close-ups and medium shots. Likewise, during daylight stakeouts and scenes on the street, there's a tonne of fine detail to behold. Perhaps unsurprisingly, textures do not pop as much when darkness falls, which is when the smeariness is usually evident. Source noise does sneak in at times to accentuate the texture of the photography (see 63:13 or 113:28), and said noise is thankfully very finely resolved as opposed to blocky or distracting - most viewers probably won't even notice it. Some impressive darktime shots also sneak in, such as the coverage of Brett and Anthony at 126:35 - despite the limited lighting, the transfer resolves ample detail on Gibson's grizzled face.

    The lack of High Dynamic Range is at times disappointing, particularly since large swaths of the movie take place at night - as a result, the limited colour space and dynamic range of 1080p is evident here in spades. Shadow detail is adequate for the most part, but I'm more concerned about the obliteration of specular detail when harsh light sources are on-screen. Just look at how blown out the lamps look in Henry's mother's apartment near the beginning of the film, for instance. Car headlights and even traffic lights are likewise blown out (see 69:45), but even more troublesome is the scene with Don Johnson at the 22-minute mark. Lt. Calvert's office is in a high-rise location overlooking the city, and the cityscape noticeably suffers from the lack of dynamic range - it looks very blown out, with scarce specular and highlight detail. This problem persists on the Lionsgate Blu-ray, so again this is not exclusive to the Icon transfer - it's just another scene that would benefit from a 4K HDR presentation. I have actually had the privilege of sampling a HDR stream, and can confirm that these issues are eliminated, as the HDR grade restores highlights and specular detail to these scenes and more. There are other times when the frame looks crushed, thanks to oppressive black levels. Just see a shot in the back of Vogelman's van at 95:39, when balaclavas and shadows blur together in a haze of black. I doubt those who performed the video encode were able to do much, given the nature of the visuals. It's just clear that Benji Bakshi's careful cinematography was designed for 4K HDR, making it all the more disappointing that there's no 4K UHD disc on the market.

    Contrast is thankfully above-average thanks to Bakshi's stylish lighting, creating strong image depth - check out the coverage of Vaughn in the car at 103:55, with car headlights behind him. Some shots admittedly carry a glossy, flat digital look, but it's not common. Blacks are frequently deep, though they lack the definitive inkiness that HDR can impart, while skin tones look pleasing as well. Colours on the whole look accurate to the source, with vivid primaries, though the palette is deliberately restrained - this is not an overly saturated-looking movie. Aside from some of the aforementioned crush, I was unable to detect any other video artefacts or compression anomalies - no banding, macroblocking, aliasing, or anything else was visible to my eyes. In final analysis, this is a perfectly watchable and serviceable transfer courtesy of Icon and Madman, which is virtually identical to the Region A Lionsgate Blu-ray. Sharpness sometimes falters and textures only pop intermittently, but when the transfer is on, it looks really nice. In the absence of a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, I'll be happy with this.

    English subtitles (for the hearing impaired) are included. The track looks fine to my eyes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio option on the disc is a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) track, which is in keeping with how the movie was originally mixed and exhibited. Dragged Across Concrete's audio is mostly front-centred, as a lot of the movie involves dialogue - luckily, all of the dialogue is well-prioritised, ensuring the chatter is easy to hear and comprehend, though it is a bit low at times. Low-frequency effects and subwoofer activity is evident throughout, from the dull roar of car engines, to Brett's Magnum handgun, Anthony's sniper rifle, or the silenced weapons used by Vogelman's men to carry out their work. As with Zahler's previous efforts, Dragged Across Concrete is not a showcase for large-scale action sequences, as the gunfire is more restrained and sparse. Therefore, there are no scenes during which the audio really roars to life as one might expect from a Marvel movie or a big-budget action blockbuster, but that's fine. It still packs a punch when it needs to.

    Separation effects are used when appropriate. For instance, when Brett and Anthony are on the fire escape in their introductory scene, they listen to a conversation and movement through the walls, and said audio is isolated to the appropriate surround channels. However, the surround channels mostly deliver subtle atmospherics as well as music, with perfunctory and not overly spectacular engagement from the rear speakers. This is no doubt a creative choice, as again the Region A Lionsgate Blu-ray is identical, and it's therefore not a fault of Icon's rock-solid encode. Happily, I can report that the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track never falls victim to any bothersome anomalies, such as sync issues, drop-outs, or pops and clicks. It's also crystal clear, owing to the lossless encode. No real complaints from me.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Icon are not the most reliable company when it comes to special features, but apparently they listened to the consumers this time. Here we have 47 minutes of quality behind-the-scenes content. There's also an anti-piracy ad on start-up, and the main menu is nicely themed, with music and film clips.

Elements of a Crime Part 1 (HD; 17:37)

    The main draw of the extras is this outstanding "making of" documentary, which was commissioned by Lionsgate and created by veteran documentarian Cliff Stephenson. This first part concentrates on the project's genesis, revealing Zahler's approach to screenwriting, coming to the project so soon after Brawl in Cell Block 99, and the casting process. The featurette is driven by interviews with a variety of cast and crew, including Zahler, Gibson, Vaughn, Kittles, Laurie Holden, and Zahler's producing partner Dallas Sonnier. The interviewees talk about working with Zahler, and their admiration for his screenplays and storytelling. Zahler even touches upon the inclusion of Jennifer Carpenter's minor character, an aspect that was not warmly embraced by all viewers. Heaps of fascinating behind-the-scenes footage is sprinkled throughout, in addition to film clips, but thankfully this isn't another fluffy EPK which wastes over half of its duration on needless film clips.

Elements of a Crime Part 2 (HD; 8:11)

    This second part, entitled "Criminal Act," concentrates more on the production itself, with Benji Bakshi dropping in to talk about his approach to the cinematography and lighting. There are no handheld shots in the movie at all, as the camerawork is mostly static. Sonnier also explains the importance of making the movie independently, giving Zahler full creative control to make the movie he wants to make. Again, insightful on-set footage is intercut with interviews featuring a variety of participants.

Elements of a Crime Part 3 (HD; 15:14)

    And finally, "Criminal Concurrence" primarily focuses on the editing - more specifically, the rhythm and cadence of the movie, with Zahler favouring pauses and extended time with the characters. The actors discuss the direction they were given on-set, Zahler speaks about choices made in the editing room, and editor Greg D'Auria also pops in to give his two cents about the process of assembling Dragged Across Concrete. Music is touched upon too - every piece of music in the film is diegetic, as Zahler only chose to include songs rather than an actual score.

Moral Conflict (HD; 7:00)

    Also created by Cliff Stevenson, and assembled from the same interview sessions as the documentary, this brief featurette touches upon creating challenging cinema in this current movie-going climate dominated by blockbusters. It's a nice little addendum to the documentary.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region A Blu-ray from Lionsgate has additional language options and a slightly higher video bitrate, though the video quality isn't significantly better. I'm calling it a draw.

Summary

    It's not a film for everyone, but for my money, Dragged Across Concrete is a masterpiece. It's long but unfailingly engrossing, thanks to S. Craig Zahler's direction and a superb ensemble cast. If you're a fan of Zahler's previous movies, you must check it out.

    For the most part, Dragged Across Concrete looks and sounds pleasing on Blu-ray, while the special features are solid and insightful, though I would've liked an audio commentary to really top off the disc. Nevertheless, this Blu-ray comes recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Monday, December 02, 2019
Review Equipment
DVDSony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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