Hollywood is run by Jews, or so the age old anti-semitic trope would lead one to believe. If that’s the case, would someone please explain how it is that Mel Gibson continues to find work in pictures? Was the goal of writer-director S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) to cast an actual racist to star as one in his 159 minute action-thriller Dragged Across Concrete? If so, who better than Gibson to answer the call?
Three converging storylines commence on a note of unbridled sentimentality; the hooker whose services Henry (Tory Kittles) rents just hours after being released from prison winds up being a former high school classmate. With pipes cleaned, it’s time for the parolee to pay a visit to dear old mom’s pad, where he not only finds a paying customer in her bed, but his wheelchair-bound baby brother living a life of sad neglect. The flowery prose that flows from Henry’s mouth doesn’t always jibe with the character. (Perhaps it was his time spent in the prison library, boning up on Chester Himes.) For Henry, news of a pending score could not arrive soon enough.
With a recent collar gone bad — damn these civilian camera phones — suspended officers Brett Ridgeman (Gibson) and his partner Tony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) also find themselves in need of gainful, if not honest employment. They put their six weeks off for bad behavior to good use in the service of a simple crime, one that should yield just enough loot to see the belligerent fuzz through the dry spell. (Ridgeman has been on the force three times longer than his partner, yet the two share the same rank.) For most of its gargantuan running time, Dragged Across Concrete keeps the audience teetering on the edge of its collective seat. An exception to that rule: much of the interplay between the two cops takes place in the front seat of an unmarked car, and a stagnant 10-minute discussion of an egg salad sandwich might just as well have been conceived for radio. (Only then did the concept of being dragged across the narrative briefly enter my mind.)
The third plot thread introduces what looks to be an oxymoronic group of dominant submissives, clad in black latex body suits and armed with submachine guns, who get their kicks shooting up convenient stores and/or air conditioning unwitting teenagers. Their trademark consists of riddling corpses with enough ammo to stave off a small army.
If Harvey Weinstein is the father of the #MeToo movement, then surely Mel deserves credit for kickstarting the #MeJew movement. It began with a snockered Gibson on the side of the road, uncorking an invective-laced tirade against his arresting officer. Mad-with-moxie Mel’s defense: “I was recorded illegally by an unscrupulous police officer who was never prosecuted for that crime.” Then there were those tapes released by his ex, the ones that further cemented Mel’s reputation as an abusive bigot. Perhaps Trump’s endorsement of the “very fine people” of Charlottesville helped to shove Gibson out of the spotlight.
Add a third, even more incendiary hat to Zahler’s resume, that of king shit-stirrer. Why else assign the lead role of an intolerant cop to easily the most high-profile hater currently finding work in Hollywood? It’s been a long time since Gibson set the box office ablaze, so it’s hard to accuse Zahler of trying to make bank off the actor’s notoriety. Gibson has walked in Ridgeman’s shoes and damn if Zahler doesn’t know how to put his trudging to good use in what amounts to the most inspired bit of casting to hit Hollywood (and Gibson’s career) in ages.
Frankly, if I had to pay to see a Mel Gibson movie, my patronage would have ceased at The Beaver, the first of his films to be released after the fateful DUI stop. What to do? For one of the few times in my moviegoing existence, art and life are at war within me. Dragged Across Concrete just so happens to be a first-rate cop drama that features Gibson’s best performance in years. Still, I’m still loath to ask readers to give their box office blessings to Mel’s bad behavior. Unless there’s a career in need of salvaging, persecutors don’t suddenly awake one day to the realization that maybe the Jews weren’t “responsible for all the wars in the world.” Thinking like this is bred in the bean.
If Al Franken lost his Senate seat for a childish candid in which he pretended to play “Honk! Honk!” with a sleeping woman’s breasts, there’s enough on Gibson to hang him. You could wait until Dragged Across Concrete hits a streaming service near you, but that stands in direct opposition of my eternal quest to urge patrons to get more out of life by leaving their living rooms and going to the movies. As much as I despise endorsing the work of someone as contemptible as Mel, a good movie is a good movie. Do as your conscience dictates.