The director of ‘Bone Tomahawk’ is looking to explore police brutality and revenge in a modern setting.
Mel Gibson’s “supposed” comeback – more on that in a minute – continues with the news that he’s been cast opposite Vince Vaughn in a new action movie from writer/director S. Craig Zahler (Asylum Blackout, Bone Tomahawk). Per Variety, the pair have been cast in Dragged Across Concrete where they’re set to play cops “who are suspended when a video of their strong-arm tactics gets wide attention. They then descend into the criminal underworld to exact vengeance.”
The news has already caught the ire of some who seem unexcited for a movie on this topic with these actors, but I’d argue it’s a little too early to react so negatively when all we have so far is that very brief and non-specific premise. Are they strong-arming bad guys or innocents? Is it Rodney King-type behavior or more Martin Riggs?
Police brutality and corruption are real issues, ones covered in serious films like Serpico and Dark Blue, but for all we know Zahler’s latest is aiming more towards pure entertainment along the lines of Street Kings. (This is not a bad thing.) That short premise tells us nothing really beyond it being an action movie with buddy cops behaving badly. John Michael McDonagh’s recent War on Everyone fits the same bill, but no one batted an eye at Michael Peña and Alexander Skarsgård roughing up suspects and generally treating everyone around them with disdain.
Could the difference be that Peña and Skarsgård are likable guys with inoffensive (or unknown) politics? Probably. Gibson and Vaughn are both well-known Hollywood conservatives, but their misguided private lives have little bearing on their work onscreen.
To that end, people talking about Gibson’s comeback seem to think he’s only just now returning after his alcoholic ramblings against women and Jews went public several years ago. He definitely got the cold shoulder from general audiences, but fans – and I count myself among them – have enjoyed to varying degrees his work over the past seven or so years in films as diverse as Get the Gringo, Blood Father, The Beaver, and even The Expendables 3. He’s an engaging actor, especially in roles that see him skirting sanity and enduring excessive amounts of pain.
He is gaining a wider re-acceptance in general thanks to the success of his recent effort as director, Hacksaw Ridge. It has issues, but the action and character work keep it exciting and engaging more often than not (and Vaughn’s co-starring turn is the best work he’s done in years). The film just picked up six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, so even if Gibson fails to find his acting mojo again it’s clear he still has the directorial chops.
You could argue that War on Everyone got a pass because it also skewed comedic, but per Zahler’s own words his latest looks to be just as interested in laughter tinged with darkness.
“Dragged Across Concrete is best suited to my goal of making a heartfelt, surprising, sad, funny, shocking, and memorable world with multiple viewpoints. As is often the case in my novels and screenplays, the protagonists are in perilous circumstances against which they struggle in different and surprising – though logical – ways. I am absolutely thrilled to have Mel and Vince agree to play the lead roles.”
Protagonists struggling against perilous circumstances isn’t quite the unique take he appears to think it is, but the takeaway here is Zahler’s descriptors – “heartfelt, sad, funny, shocking” – which make it sound like he’s aiming for the same tone as Bone Tomahawk. Hopefully he fares better this time.
But I digress.
This isn’t the time to debate the merits of Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk, so instead let’s just agree that the dark western showcased his ability to draw together some fantastic onscreen talent. His second feature, Brawl in Cell Block 99, opens sometime this year and follows suit with the likes of Don Johnson, Jennifer Carpenter, and Vaughn (again!).
Gibson plays “off-kilter and mad” better than most, and Vaughn’s talents are most noticeable in roles that allow him to unspool verbal tirades on a regular basis. Again, we know very little at this point, but I’m guessing Dragged Across Concrete will give both actors the opportunity to do what they do best and I for one am looking forward to it.