DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE
2018, Summit Entertainment, 158 min, USA/Canada, Dir: S. Craig Zahler

Hot on the heels of the spectacular pugilism of BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99, S. Craig Zahler closes out a triptych of blunt-force trauma that hasn’t been witnessed since the sweaty grit of Peckinpah and Schrader at their muscular peaks. Here suspended cops Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) attempt to subvert a bank heist for private gain - but best-made plans don’t transpire as they should, resulting in murder, mutilation and a script that divides, conquers and challenges from the opening shot. Zahler expertly immerses us in a toxic environment where right and wrong are indistinguishable, and Gibson and Vaughn give him all the ammunition he needs with flawless performances as iconic antiheroes out of place and out of time - bad men doing bad things whom we willfully embrace as the lesser of the evils presented.


BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99
2017, RLJE Films, 132 min, USA, Dir: S. Craig Zahler

BONE TOMAHAWK director S. Craig Zahler’s sophomore feature follows Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn), a former boxer turned drug runner who is incarcerated after a deal goes horribly wrong. Sentenced to serve time under the watch of the sadistic Warden Tuggs (Don Johnson), Thomas must fight to stay alive and to protect those he loves. In lesser hands this narrative could have beaten a pedestrian path, but here Zahler flirts with viewers, deliberately taking his time to establish Vaughn’s character until he arrives at prison and metamorphoses into a killing machine that is part Frankenstein monster, part shark from JAWS and part monster truck.


ALEX OF VENICE
2014, Screen Media Films, 86 min, USA, Dir: Chris Messina

Actor Chris Messina makes his directorial debut with this character-driven drama about personal reinvention. Environmental attorney Alex Vedder (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has thrown herself into her work at the expense of her marriage; when her husband (Messina) leaves, Alex must juggle the demands of her aging father, introverted son and eccentric sister all by herself. Though this couldn’t have happened at a worse time - just as she’s been given the biggest case of her career - it may be the wake-up call that Alex needs to hold her family together. With Don Johnson.


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