Having elevated grindhouse into the arthouse with Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, writer-director S. Craig Zahler’s third feature puts the hardboiled crime thriller on slow boil.

Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) are cops whose strong-arm tactics on a suspect are captured by a witness’s smartphone, resulting in suspension without pay. Ridgeman lives in a crummy neighbourhood with his sick wife and bullied daughter, while Lurasetti plans to propose to his girlfriend, so the sudden lack of a steady income is problematic.

The solution? Make crime pay. After being tipped off about a bank heist, the pair trail the thieves with the intention of relieving them of the loot. But of course the best laid plans of cops and crims go awry, and in Zahler’s hands, a buddy cop movie becomes a bloody cop movie (albeit sans the jaw-dropping violence of his previous films).  

Having honed his tough guy image under Zahler in Brawl in Cell Block 99, Vince Vaughn is back for more biffo (along with Brawl co-stars Don Johnson, Jennifer Carpenter and Udo Kier in brief but detailed roles). And Mel Gibson’s career resurrection continues, with shades of the old lethal weapon surfacing – think Martin Riggs as a bitter veteran still on a basic wage, raging against the current climate of political correctness and refusing to change with the times (art imitating life?).

Zahler’s passion for pulpy titles, complex and verbose characters, protracted running times, and B-movie fodder as high-brow fare is at its most indulgent here. Call him the thinking person’s Tarantino. Peeling away the plot’s layers over a leisurely 159 minutes might sound like a slog (and it sometimes is), but slow cooking yields tastier results, and the meticulous and measured delivery ultimately rewards once the film has been properly digested.

star-4In cinemas: August 29, 2019
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Mel Gibson, Jennifer Carpenter
Directed by: S. Craig Zahler