There’s a lot factoring into how a movie experience would go for you. While disappointment often trails the extreme hype buzzing around the film, the feeling of a pleasant surprise once in a while is a direct consequence of how low your expectations were in the first place. I’m elated to relay that neither reason has been a matter of impact when it comes to just how much I truly savored every morsel of the dicey, racist cops v. struggling, ethically grey criminals of the black community tropes that Steven Craig Zahler’s neo-noir crime thriller “Dragged Across Concrete” presented on a keenly entertaining platter. Not often does the 159-minute runtime of a slow-burn passage of tense progression get injected with so much adrenaline that I would very much suggest having snacks to chomp on so as to give your fingernails a break. Granted, “Dragged Across Concrete” is a tad gauche with the formulaic stakes, but that’s sort of a given when it comes to a cult classic-esque cat-and-mouse cop-perp chase. Having said that, the ethically perplexing idiosyncrasies of “Dragged Across Concrete” bolster the nervy gambles that could’ve totally rendered the film a classic crime thriller had it come out in the early 2000s.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Dragged Across Concrete’?
A steady living wage is hard to come by in Bulwark. It is even harder than usual to achieve for Henry, a black young adult freshly out of the clink. Sure, Henry would have preferred not to live a life of crimes. But when he comes back to see that his mother has been reduced to a foul profession to earn the bread and pay the bills, the only reliable path for Henry is to agree to the shady job his friend has asked him to take up. Henry’s wheelchair-bound little brother Ethan dreams up a life of game designing—a privilege Henry can only begin to grant him if he acquires enough money to get by, to begin with. He has already gotten his hands on the advance payment the shifty client has sent his way through his friend Biscuit, who would be in a bit of a pickle in the life of crime had it not been for Henry lending his brain to make it easy on him.
As you might expect from a town with an outrageously crumbling economy, drug crimes are always at an all-time high in Bulwark. On a mission to strike down the dealers with the power of the law, although rather unlawfully more often than not, are detectives Ridgeman and Anthony. Ridgeman’s bank account is as hopeless as his odds of climbing the career ladder, all thanks to his savage approach to delivering justice as well as his overall questionable manner of conducting himself. He’s also, whether he admits to it or not, a bit of a racist who has found the right partner in the obnoxious, traditional masculinity-enforcing younger guy, Anthony Lurasetti. Over two platters of breakfast that are the antithesis of heart-healthy, Anthony and Ridgeman mourn the loss of the days when men were men, and the binary gender of a singer was discernible from their voice. But there’s an ever-progressive moral conflict within Anthony, who is in a surprisingly wholesome relationship with Denise, who happens to be a POC and is smarter than him “by a yardstick.”
Why Do Anthony And Ridgeman Get Suspended?
One could learn a lesson or two from “Dragged Across Concrete” about contriving antagonists who are, in ways, far more menacing than the likes of Anton Chigurh with their insistently enigmatic aura of terror. Two gun-wielding masked felons have been drenching Bulwark with a terrifying amount of blood. One of them, a trigger-happy fella called Black Gloves in the ominous criminal underworld, robs a convenience store and shoots down two people just for the kick of it. He also lets his gun run free all around the store just because he feels like it. Grey Gloves, on the other hand, acquires a security van for a job he’s been hired for, but not before shooting up the tires to ascertain that they’re airless and threatening the suited seller with death if even a baby mosquito moves in the back of the van. One of the two glove wearers even guns down two civilians after robbing them clean in their cars. The people murdered by the masked, perilous crime bros were reassured of safety the same way that Ridgeman and Anthony make false promises to the criminals before locking them up. Conducting a stakeout to hunt down a tuppenny drug dealer, Vasquez, gives Ridgeman the opportunity to let off some racial hatred steam by almost crushing the perp’s head over a metal mesh without provocation. And why stop with just one when Vasquez’s disabled Latina girlfriend, Rosalinda, could be tormented and treacherously manipulated into spilling the hiding spot of the green duffel bag full of drugs?
Getting away time and again with his abusive “cast-ironing” of the perps has only rendered Ridgeman overconfident about his method, which, of course, he justifies to himself and to the Chief with the defense of his contribution in cleaning the streets of the dirtbags. But he isn’t walking away unscathed this time. And neither is Anthony, who, frankly, would’ve been a lesser screwup with a different partner. A serious call from Chief Lieutenant Calvert carries the bad tidings of an unpaid suspension that is headed their way. A video recording of what went down outside Vasquez’s apartment incriminates Ridgeman of carrying out a hate crime against a perp who was complying with their orders all along. The news can’t be stopped, and neither can the politicization of police work, which Ridgeman loathes with every fiber of his being. Anthony has chosen just about the worst time that he could to pick up a ring to propose to Denise. It’s not just the fact that the life he can picture with her won’t be diamond-studded that scares Anthony; knowing that Denise can see right through him terrifies the suspended cop.
How Do Ridgeman And Anthony Get Mixed Up In The Bank Robbery?
Ridgeman hasn’t gotten around to being promoted while he was busy earning a bad rep as an unstable cop. And yet his convoluted morals haven’t allowed him to indulge in bribes either. As a result of both, he is made to weave his nest in a “bad” neighborhood with his ex-cop wife, whose mobility is half stolen by MS, and a teen daughter who has just gotten assaulted for the fifth time in two years. He has just about had it up to here with the dues that he believes he shouldn’t have to pay. And he’s done living a life of deprivation, even if it means that he forsakes the oath he took as a police detective and his ethics as an upstanding citizen. Ridgeman squeezes Friedrich, a guy with connections who owes him a favor for having his son saved from doing time, and gets info about a drug distributor with a lot of cash on his hands. It’s Vogelmann’s cash that Ridgeman wishes to loot, with or without Anthony by his side. On their first dawn of surveillance at Vogelmann’s shady building, Anthony has a hard time coming to terms with what they’re about to do. And why he agrees to go along with the atrocious plan is about as opaque as the reason why he even associates himself with someone as dicey as Ridgeman. But agree he does, however badly he may fail to convince Denise that he’s not getting tangled up in a maze of crimes he hasn’t the first clue about. Ridgeman himself isn’t privy to what business Vogelmann is about to be wrapped up in. All he knows is that he has enough ammo and police gear to subdue the drug dealer and steal his money when the opportunity arises.
I wouldn’t deem “Dragged Across Concrete” an overachiever. But when it does set its mind to reaping the most of a circumstance, the film has its way of going all out. And that brings us to Kelly Summer, a bank employee played by the fantastic Jennifer Carpenter, who is hard to take your eyes off for the fleeting appearance she does make in Zahler’s film. Summer’s obsessive attachment to her newborn has obligated her to exhaust the entirety of her maternity leave, dreading having to go back to work. And now that even the extra vacation days she allowed herself to take are over, jittery Summer still can’t get herself to board the bus that would take her to her workplace. She rushes back to her apartment only to meet the understandable frustration of her spouse, who’s just about as patient as any given person would be in this situation. With the promise of leaving for work right after, Summer clutches her aching heart as she takes a whiff of her son’s little feet, pockets his tiny sock, and goes about her awful day of withdrawal.
By the time Ridgeman and Anthony get their eyes on Vogelmann’s car, which doesn’t just seat him but also Henry and Biscuit, they’ve got no other option but to tail the car to the unknown. No amount of contemplation during the drive can clarify what Vogelmann is up to. But just in case things do turn sideways, Anthony finds it best to leave the proposal on Denise’s voicemail. Following Vogelmann’s car leads them to a construction site, and they watch it go in through a door that closes behind it. What comes out of the door is the security van that Grey Gloves had obtained. This time around, Henry and Biscuit have disguised themselves in makeup that tries and fails to make them look white. Another long drive following the van brings Ridgeman and Anthony to the financial district on a busy day. Vogelmann’s plan is to loot the gold bullion that is secured in the bank where Summer works. The worst day to try and break the problematic pattern, innit? With their guns cocked, the robbers declare clear instructions for Summer to zip-tie every other employee’s hands. Trying to stop a colleague from making a dumb move is how the poor girl startles the gunmen and has her fingers shot off. With the three fingers left in her hand, Summer takes the sock out of her pockets and pleads with the perps to deliver it to her son, fully knowing that her time has come. Ridgeman and Anthony hear the gunshots from outside as Summer and a bunch of other employees are ruthlessly murdered by Black Gloves and Grey Gloves. It takes Vogelmann and his associates just about a couple of minutes to acquire the gold and the cash—something that could’ve easily been achieved without the bloodbath. When the van takes off, and Ridgeman and Anthony follow suit, they glance at the corpses left behind in the bank. Ridgeman is stern in his notion that there’s nothing they could’ve done to stop the massacre. But Anthony is the face of wretched guilt at the thought of how things could’ve gone differently had they called it in. The two arguing over it does nothing to alter the fact that they’re smack dab in the middle of it, and the only way out is to see it through.
What Happens To Henry, Ridgeman And Anthony In The End?
The gold bullion and the cash aren’t all that Vogelmann and his goons have taken from the bank. They’ve also taken a certain Mrs. Reed as their insurance in case things go south. There’s conceivable tension on Biscuit and Henry’s face. After all, they had no clue that the Gloves duo would wreak such petrifying havoc when the robbery could’ve succeeded with minimal to no violence at all. Their take on what went on isn’t something that the people in the back of the van are interested in hearing. And neither are they going to let the two carry their guns as they drive to the remote location. Henry’s sly eyes recognize that the gray car driven by Ridgeman had been following them. But instead of letting the clients know, Henry shrewdly keeps mum about the same and focuses on comforting a panicky Biscuit with warm tales of their childhood. Their association and friendship go a long way back. Biscuit’s mom had done all that she could to make little Henry’s life a bit more colorful when he was neglected by his own mother. The love that he has received from Biscuit’s family now translates into the determination that Henry feels to be there for his friend no matter how hard it gets. There is a lot going on behind those deadpan eyes of his. He has seen the kind of monstrosity the gloves are capable of. They even make Mrs. Reed take a leak on a piece of cloth right before Black Gloves gouges a hole in one of her eyelids. Henry is a criminal himself, but the very embodiments of evil that he and his friends are driving do not have a smidgen of humanity or remorse running through their veins. These are certainly not the kind of people Henry would’ve agreed to work with had he known of them before taking the advance payment.
Ridgeman lets out a sigh of relief that the van’s destination is a desolate place away from the main city where civilians could get hurt. As the van stops and Henry is handed a set of keys to go ahead and open the garage door, he abides at first, only to turn back when Biscuit takes a shot at Grey Gloves and compels Henry to cock his gun. Henry shoots off Grey Gloves’ hand, and being unable to get away without getting shot makes Biscuit swallow the van’s key. Black Glove unleashes a rain of bullets on Biscuit’s lower half before Henry can even try to save his friend. All he can do is promise his friend that he will take care of his mother as he helplessly watches Biscuit take his last breath. Mrs. Reed hauling Biscuit’s corpse into the van puzzles Ridgeman and Anthony as they await the other party to make the first hostile move. After Black Glove breezily eviscerates Biscuit and retrieves the key from his stomach, they let out a fury of bullets towards Ridgeman’s car. With the tank leaking gas, Ridgeman and Anthony barricade themselves behind the car, and Anthony gets on the ground with his police rifle. After Biscuit’s mutilated corpse is thrown out, Ridgeman thinks it best to take matters into his own hands, rams into the van with his car, and makes it keel over. Threatened by the harm that will befall her family if she doesn’t comply, Mrs. Reed is made to crawl to Ridgeman’s car. Trying to save the innocent hostage only backfires for Anthony, who is fatally shot by Mrs. Reed.
The urgency of the moment blinds Ridgeman to her terrible circumstances and makes him brutally shoot her to death. Anthony holds the phone to his ears to hear the voicemail Denise has left with her answer to the proposal. We don’t get to hear what Denise said, but the look in Anthony’s eyes and the pain in his voice as he says that it wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear makes me believe that she said yes. Had she said no, Anthony could’ve died knowing that she wouldn’t be mortified by his death. He not only dies with the agony of his death taking place in a humiliating context but also with the ache in his heart, knowing that Denise will be scarred for life. After promising a proper burial to his partner, Ridgeman crashes into the van again and throws in a tear gas bomb through the opening. Echoing how he had manipulated Rosalinda into confessing, Ridgeman assures the perps that they would be spared if they surrender, only to puncture Black Gloves with bullets when he emerges out of the van. Before Ridgeman can douse the van with gasoline, Henry fires his gun to stop him from burning down the cash. Ridgeman gets on top of the van and shoots down the surviving perps before he is shot by Henry.
Appearing out of the dark, Henry warns Ridgeman that he has recorded it all on his phone and wouldn’t mind sharing it with the world. Post a bit of bickering, Henry is softened by Ridgeman’s predicament and how helpless he feels for not being able to give his wife and daughter a better life. They decide to split the gold 60/40 and a paranoid Ridgeman loads the bags in the trunk of his car, which is to be towed by the getaway vehicle. They drown Ridgeman’s car in the lake before Ridgeman makes an error of judgment that costs him his life. He holds a gun to Henry’s face and pressurizes him to delete the video. Reluctant to let go of the only piece of insurance at his disposal, Henry fights back, and the conflict leads to Ridgeman getting fatally shot.
The man, who’s wrecked up to realize that his criminal magnitude has extended from drug dealing and assault to murder, pledges to take care of his wife and kid to the dying man. It would be fair to assume that neither Denise nor Ridgeman’s wife get to know of their respective partners’ vicious fates. But Henry makes good on his promise and sends a package containing gold bullion to Ridgeman’s family. He has also given his mom and little brother a life that they couldn’t even imagine in their wildest dreams. The woman who struggled to pay bills now gets an in-home massage in their ocean-facing home. And the little disabled kid who never really hoped to see his dream come true now plays games on a mind-blowing setup in his own game room. Life has given Henry a shot that he would’ve never gotten had he not taken matters into his own hands and risked his survival. And yet he wants to hold on to the traces of the simpler times as he makes Ethan pause the game he was playing and asks him to play the game they used to play in their little dingy apartment.