Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson in DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE

A smouldering slow burn which drags and fizzles out without an explosive ending.

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler isn’t one to shy away from gratuitous violence; in 2015’s Bone Tomahawk you needed a hell of a strong stomach. He followed that up with Vince Vaughn in Brawl in Cell Block 99 in 2017 and he gave us much of the same brilliance and meticulous violence. For his third Zahler has reunited with Vaughn, roped in Mel Gibson but has opted for a more subdued piece which doesn’t quite make it up to the same grade of his previous offerings which, all in all, makes you feel every last minute of its two and a half hours.

Essentially a heist thriller which takes an age to get to, the story centres on three men. Cop partners Brett Ridgeman (Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vaughn), are put on unpaid leave when their less than conventional arrest of a drug dealer hits the news after being caught on camera. The other is ex-con Henry Johns (Tory Kittles), after being released from prison finds his mother on drugs and on the game whilst his disabled brother goes unnoticed.

Money is the biggest factor for all three men; Henry wants a better life for his family while Brett, stuck in the same position he has been in for decades at work, has a wife with MS and a daughter who is constantly bullied enhancing the need to move from their neighbourhood. Feeling like he has no other choice, Brett seeks out a criminal connection to make a fast buck. It just so happens there is word of a robbery that could just answer his prayers and he recruits Anthony to intercept the job, a job which just happens to have Henry as one of the getaway drivers.

The biggest issue is the amount of time Zahler takes to actually get to the action, it’s a two-hour build-up of slick dialogue and short detours before we get to the main attraction. At one stage, we are introduced to a young woman who works for the bank that is the venue for the robbery, having just had a baby, her maternity leave comes to end but she really doesn’t want to leave her newborn. Let’s just say the outcome is horrific and would send any new mother into an anxiety spin.

We’re all for intelligent, witty repartee but when it comes at a cost of just filling time to build up what turns out to be an anticlimactic finale it can all feel like a major waste of time, we could have easily opted to cut at least forty minutes from its core. Zahler, for once, fails to deliver that juicy, meaty gore fest – although it does have its rare moments – that he has become loved for. Gibson’s got that deadpan angst down to a fine art putting in a great performance.

Ultimately what we end up with is a smouldering slow burn which fizzles out without an explosive ending and I, for one, am sorely disappointed.

Dragged Across Concrete hit cinemas April 19th.