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Dragged Across Concrete

S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) is back with a solid and satisfyingly rough follow-up to the jaw-dropping Brawl in Cell Block 99, reuniting with Vince Vaughn and teaming him up with Mel Gibson in a literally gut-ripping, downbeat buddy cop brutalizer. Seasoned detective Brett Ridgeman (Gibson) and partner Anthony Lurasetti (Vaughn) are caught on video using excessive force in the apprehension of a Hispanic drug dealer, creating a scandal for their police department, and get suspended without pay by their superior (Don Johnson). Both men need money – Lurasetti because he plans to propose marriage to his girlfriend, and Ridgeman because his daughter is no longer safe in their ghettoized neighborhood and the family needs to get out. At the extent of his tether, Ridgeman hatches a half-baked plan to rip off a heroin dealer that winds up with him and his partner pitted against a gang of formidable paramilitary bank heisters. A career highlight for Gibson equal to his over-the-hill hero roles in Edge of Darkness and Blood Father, and yet another impressive entry in Vaughn’s growing résumé of scary tough guy characters after True Detective and Brawl in Cell Block 99.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Dragged Across Concrete is:

8. Anti-drug. Tory Kittles plays ex-con Henry Johns, whose stint in prison illustrates a very possible outcome for a dealer. His mother, a heroin addict, has turned to prostitution. It is also mentioned that the dealer Ridgeman mistreats has been selling drugs to children, undermining any potential audience sympathy for the criminal.

7. Ableist! Lurasetti compares a hearing-impaired woman’s speech to a dolphin’s.

6. Anti-Semitic! Writer-director Zahler, as Soiled Sinema’s Ty E. puts it, is an artist who seems to have “transcended his Jewishness”, which may account for the brief and harmless but stereotype-oozing portrayal of the friendly jeweler Feinbaum, who says his wife has two brothers who are therapists and three sisters who are lawyers.

feinbaum

5. Homophobic! Henry dismisses his “cocksuckin’ father” as “a yesterday who ain’t worth words.” Disapprovingly, Ridgeman fails to see “much of a difference these days” between men and women, and also mocks Lurasetti’s “gay hair shit” disguise.

4. Media-critical. Chief Lieutenant Calvert (Johnson) derides the anti-police bias of “the entertainment industry formally known as ‘the news’”, which “needs villains” and fabricates them if necessary.

3. Natalist, i.e., sexist! Unexpectedly, the movie features a tender (albeit offbeat) portrait of a new mother, Kelly Summer (Jennifer Carpenter), desperately trying to avoid going back to work after using up her maternity leave. The necessity of keeping a job seems cruel and absurd now that she has a baby. Her proper place, she realizes, is at home with her child, and her boss, Mr. Edmington (Fred Melamed) describes her as a “radiant vision of maternity”. The section of Dragged Across Concrete that follows Kelly is even more affecting on a second viewing.

2. Class-conscious. “My job [in a bank] is so stupid,” Kelly laments. “I go there and I sell chunks of my life for a paycheck so that rich people I’ve never even met can put money in places I’ve never even seen.” Henry’s little brother Ethan, meanwhile, sees big game hunting as “rich white people shit”. There is also the suggestion that those with wealth have the means to elude the law, as Ridgeman at some point in the past allowed the son of businessman Friedrich (Udo Kier) to escape punishment for an unnamed crime in exchange for a future favor from the well-connected father. Ridgeman no longer believes in a meritocratic American dream. “I don’t politick and I don’t change with the times and turns that that shit’s more important than good, honest work,” he tells his partner, determining: “We have the skills and the right to acquire proper compensation” for thankless years of public service.

1.Race-realist – with exceptions. “They’re so cute before they get big,” says Ridgeman’s daughter Sara (Jordyn Ashley Olson) – ostensibly with reference to lion cubs, but subtextually referring to the black boys who harass her when she walks home from school. “This fucking neighborhood, it just keeps getting worse and worse,” frets Mrs. Ridgeman (Laurie Holden). “You know I never thought I was a racist before living in this area. I’m about as liberal as any ex-cop could ever be, but now,” she demands, “we really need to move” or else, “someday, you and me,” she tells her husband, “we are in a hospital room with our daughter talking to a rape counselor.”

Ridgeman and his partner are both depicted as casual racists. “I’m not racist,” Lurasetti jokes: “Every Martin Luther King Day I order a cup of dark roast.” In a twenty-first century world in which “digital eyes are everywhere”, however, old-school law-and-order enforcers like Ridgeman and Lurasetti are living on borrowed time. “Like cell phones, and just as annoying, politics are everywhere,” Calvert observes. “Being branded a racist in today’s public forum is like being accused of communism in the fifties. 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 […] It’s bullshit – but it’s reality.”

Softening Dragged Across Concrete’s racial edge is the presence of Henry, the conspicuous specimen of Africanus cinematicus played by Tory Kittles. This ghetto thug with the soul of a poet is given to saying things like, “Before I consider that kind of vocation, I need to get myself acclimated” and is at all times depicted as being more astute than those around him. His little brother Ethan, too, is portrayed as an underprivileged but bright lad of great potential. The case can be made that Dragged Across Concrete makes examples of its most prominent bigots by punishing them while rewarding Henry in the end. Ridgeman, who has refused to change with the times, is taught the important lesson that he “should have trusted a nigger.”

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

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Magic Mike poster

Magic Mike, along with Katy Perry: Part of Me, was one of the faith-shakingly embarrassing trailers that seemed to hound this critic every time he went to the movies during the summer of 2012. “Oh, no, not this again,” he would think to himself, slumping into his seat as his heart sank in his breast. The fact of the matter is, however, that this amusing and unassumingly sharp drama from screenwriter Reid Carolin and director Steven Soderbergh not only rises to the occasion on more than an anatomical level, but ends up as one of the most outstanding films of its year.

Channing Tatum, who actually worked as a stripper during an earlier phase of his show business career, puts his skills to productive use in Magic Mike, a role perfectly suited to the actor’s dissolute good looks, sex power, and sense of humor. Tatum’s semiautobiographical Mike is an American original, a creatively driven renaissance stud who aspires to build handcrafted furniture for a living, but works at construction, car detailing, and stripping until he can put together the venture capital he requires. Handsome Alex Pettyfer plays Adam, the fresh piece of meat Mike recruits to join the dance revue at Club Xquisite, and whose pretty but staid sister Brooke (Cody Horn) will become Mike’s reluctant romantic interest.

It is Matthew McConaughey, however, who majestically steals much of Magic Mike as the Mephistophelean Dallas, the Gordon Gekko of male strip club proprietors. In particular, the sequence in which erotic drill instructor Dallas is training greenhorn Adam for his first tour of duty under the lights provides McConaughey with the most explosive monologue of 2012. “Who’s got the cock? You do. They don’t,” he prods his pupil like a madman, showing him how to win over a crowd of emotionally vulnerable women by whirling and thrusting his pelvis properly. “You are the husband that they never had. You are the dreamboat guy that never came along. You are the one-night stand, that free fling of a fuck that they get to have tonight with you onstage and still go home to their hubby and not get in trouble because you, baby, you make it legal. You are the liberation!” McConaughey even gets to sing a sweet little country ditty, “Ladies of Tampa”, which he himself co-wrote.

Soderbergh again shows himself to be the consummate master, a man in complete and comfortable control of his craft. Magic Mike is a career highlight, but with no small assistance from his collaborators at every level of this nearly perfect production. From performances to editing and visual design, Magic Mike is a classy show and deserving of repeated viewings. Music also adds much to the verve of the experience, with cleverly selected songs setting the movie’s various tones and rhythms. Of special note, Win Win’s “Victim” is darkly repetitive, cock-rocking magic; Countre Black’s cover of “It’s Raining Men” is a scintillating introduction to the men of Xquisite doing a campy raincoats-and-umbrellas routine; and Chris Mitchell’s coy rendition of “Like a Virgin” is an appropriate accompaniment to Adam’s shy first appearance onstage.

Highly recommended at 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Magic Mike is:

11. Anti-Christian. A crucifix pendant and cross tattoo appear in irreverent contexts.

10. Antiwar. The troupe of strippers performs a mock-patriotic military-themed routine, firing their crotches to the sound of gunfire. While, on the one hand, this points to the warrior ideal as a perennially appealing archetype in women’s sexual fantasies, it might just as easily equate war with show business as something tawdry, phony, and whorish, or suggest that war is really a sublimation of primal, sexually motivated aggression.

9. Anti-obesity. One of the strippers hurts his back trying to lift a chubby customer.

8. Pro-gay. “I don’t care what your preferences are,” says Brooke when she discovers her brother’s dance outfits and takes these for evidence of his homosexuality. Then, as if 2005’s Brokeback Mountain had been insufficient degradation of an American movie icon, the cowboy archetype is further downgraded by a homoerotic gunfight strip routine.

7. Statist. “Fuck school altogether,” Dallas opines with reason. His idea is that children should be homeschooled with special emphasis on finance and investment strategies, but Mike, presumably from faith in the liberal public education system, dismisses this as “stupid shit”.

6. Anti-American. “That’s the state of the country, man. America. People. Stupid.”

5. Pro-wigger. Mike affects a hoodie, backwards cap, and “y’all” talk.

4. Feminist/anti-marriage/anti-family. Brooke is offended and gets defensive when she assumes Mike is suggesting that she cook breakfast for him. A woman wearing a “bride to be” sash is seen dancing uninhibitedly onstage with one of the strippers, and Dallas explains that women patronize his establishment because their marriages are unfulfilling, with nude male revues providing the psychological “liberation” women require. The institution of motherhood, meanwhile, receives grotesque parody treatment in the memorable image of pink-haired tart Nora (Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, Riley Keough) bottle-feeding milk to a piglet.

3. Drug-ambivalent. Strippers partake of something called “hey juice” and stupid sorority girls demand to know: “Who do we have to fuck to get a fucking drink?” Joints are passed around without consequence, but drinking and harder drugging (and drug dealing) get Adam and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) into serious difficulties. Mike and Adam barely make it out of a sorority house with their lives when Adam enrages a girl’s boyfriend by slipping her some E. To its credit, Magic Mike contains a classic morning-after atrocity scene too good to spoil.

2. Slut-ambivalent. Relatively conservative Brooke regrets her adolescent decision to get tattooed. Adam is warned to avoid oral contact with customers so as to avoid contracting herpes. One laid-back dope dealer enjoys an open marriage (“My wife’s tits are awesome. Check ‘em out, man.”), but this segment, rather than serving as an endorsement of swinging lifestyles, is intended to evince the decadence and the seductive evil of the world into which Adam is being initiated. Casual orgy partner Joanna (Olivia Munn) comes across as unhappy and frightened by intimacy, with Mike ultimately realizing that what he needs is a good girl and a sexually conventional life. In the final analysis, Magic Mike is less than satisfactorily judgmental where sexual promiscuity is concerned, but does give the impression that such escapades are best suited for youth if at all necessary and better abandoned in maturity.

1. Anti-capitalistic-cum-populist. In Magic Mike’s complicated and nuanced moral universe, informed by the compassionate socialist-populist worldview of screenwriter Reid Carolin (whose nonprofit group Red Feather Development has, according to Wikipedia, been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show!) and director Steven Soderbergh (hagiographer of Che Guevara and happy producer of George Clooney’s disingenuous anti-McCarthy clunker Good Night, and Good Luck) honest toil when set to the pattern of the typical employer-employee paradigm becomes a species of semi-prostitution. “You don’t wanna know what I have to do for twenties,” Mike tells Brooke significantly. The capitalist, as exemplified by Mike’s construction foreman, is a petty exploiter who balks at the notion of paying “benefits and shit”.

It is stripper-impresario Dallas, however, who most clearly personifies capitalism in this film. Icy, dishonest, superficial, materialistic, and nihilistic, he is also a charming, seductive swaggerer whose charisma no viewer will deny. A manipulator of others, Dallas also whores himself, serenading his customers (whom he describes collectively as his “wife”) and climbing back into the saddle for an impressively sweaty farewell performance of his own, erupting a shower of crumpled dollar bills onto his naked torso. Going into business as partners with Dallas is clearly a matter of dealing with the Devil (“Nobody walks on water on my team.”), and Dallas expectedly lets Mike down, going back on his glorious promises. Commerce, for Dallas, is glorified theft. “You are worth the cash you pry out of their fuckin’ purses,” he snidely pontificates.

It is the small, honest, dream-driven entrepreneur, uncorrupted by greed and mercenary prudence, with whom these filmmakers sympathize. Mike’s desire to start his own custom furniture business is admirable and casts him as, if not a starving artist, then a creative man of principle unwilling to compromise on his vision. This type of endeavor, Magic Mike charges, is thwarted at every turn by the old boys’ club of the business and financial establishment. This becomes painfully obvious when Mike, seeking a startup loan for his venture, is turned down as a bad credit risk by a bank’s loan officer (Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt, who, this reviewer is grieved to report, is at no point in the film treated to a private dance from Mike). “The only thing that’s distressed is y’all,” Mike tells her defiantly on being refused. One of the morals of Magic Mike, then, is that self-reliance and hard work, even if it results in a less comfortable life than that of a high-class courtesan, is, albeit a more difficult one, a more dignified way to live. Magic Mike, consequently, has mostly scorn for slacker Adam, who shirks his responsibilities, sleeps on his sister’s couch, and refuses to interview for a job that requires his wearing a “fuckin’ tie”.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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