Dragged Across Concrete ½

A completely unnecessary movie about middle aged white cops (do I even need to mention they're men?) whose response to being put on probation after being videotaped smashing the face of an arrestee (not caught on camera was their needless harassment of his deaf girlfriend) is to decide to rob some criminals, this being director S. Craig Zahler's interpretation of the movie's tagline: THOSE WHO CAN’T EARN A LIVING MUST FIND ANOTHER WAY TO PROVIDE.

What's most upsetting about this movie is not its egregious runtime (including deadly boring stakeout and driving scenes, one of which includes Vince Vaughn eating an egg salad sandwich for what seemed like five minutes), but instead its deeply regressive attitude towards race in America. This is a movie that tries to set up a parallel between Mel Gibson's and Tory Kittles' characters---according to Zahler, both of these guys are just down on their luck, forgotten by a society that has left them behind. Gibson is a white cop with a propensity for excessive force, trying to support a disabled wife and a daughter harassed by black teens who have recently moved into their neighborhood, while Kittles is a recent black parolee whose mother has taken to turning tricks to support her other son, who also happens to be disabled. Yet, no matter how much Zahler wants us to look through a nonracial lens to find two characters in compromised situations, by ignoring race, this movie reassures its white audience that they too should feel justifiably persecuted, not by a history of slavery and Jim Crow, but rather by being labeled racist. But there is no comparison here, and to suggest otherwise (as Zahler does over and over) is both egregious and irresponsible. The felt persecution of white America is, after all, exactly what led to the election of Donald Trump.

This is a movie in which the police lieutenant who grudgingly puts our two protagonist cops on probation laments the politics (rather than the ethics) of their behavior, saying, "Like cell phones and just as annoying, politics are (sic) everywhere. Being branded a racist in today's public forum is like being accused of communism in the '50s, whether it's a possibly offensive remark made in a private phone call or the indelicate treatment of a minority who sells drugs to children." I mean, he might have just said "Make America Great Again."

This is a movie in which Gibson's white wife (played by Laurie Holden) says, "Our daughter was menaced by four blacks," insists she's liberal, demands that her family move out of their neighborhood which keeps "getting worse and worse" (meaning more and more black people are moving in), and then, when asked about the footage which led to Gibson's probation, tells him that it's time he got a new windbreaker. My only wardrobe complaint is that she was missing her MAGA hat.

This is a movie that depicts women as either sexual objects to be manipulated, helpless innocents to be rescued, trophies to be wooed, supportive simulacra of their husbands, or weak willed neurotics needing the guiding hand of a man. In a particularly unnecessary scene, a woman (played by Jennifer Carpenter) decides she would prefer to spend time with her newborn rather than go to work, yet her husband, seeing her behavior as a neurosis, refuses to let her enter their apartment to be with her child. This is played as a tragic mistake, as just one scene later her head is blown off in a bank robbery, but there is no greater significance of this in the movie except to show us that the guys robbing the bank are really bad guys, though, if you needed that point to be reinforced, I suggest calling a psychiatrist.

Perhaps nowhere is the boomer fist shaking most apparent than when Mel Gibson smashes a cell phone because his recently shot friend's obscure marriage proposal was refused. It would have been just about as on the nose to have had the cell phone showing a headline reading, "Microaggressions, trigger warnings, Elizabeth Warren 2020, climate change is real."

I'm not racist. Every Martin Luther King Day I order a dark roast.

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