Vince Vaughn is back at the Venice Film Festival this year with a second-in-a-row starring role in a gritty crime thriller by Bone Tomahawk writer/director S. Craig Zahler. Last year, they were here for Brawl In Cell Block 99 and today will present Dragged Across Concrete out of competition. The film marks another reteam, this one with Mel Gibson who also stars and who previously directed Vaughn in 2016’s triumphant Hacksaw Ridge, which too made its debut on the Lido.

Dragged Across Concrete was well-received at its press screenings this morning and at an afternoon press conference. It pairs Vaughn and Gibson as cop partners who’ve put away enough criminals to fill two wings of a state penitentiary but don’t play enough politics to be rewarded on the job. When they’re suspended after video of an excessively forceful arrest turns up on the 7 o’clock news, they embark on a dangerous plan to secure their futures.

There are multiple storylines that converge with characters played by an ensemble that includes Michael Jai White, Tory Kittles, Udo Kier, Don Johnson, Laurie Holden and Jennifer Carpenter.

Zahler wanted Gibson for Concrete, and Vaughn encouraged him. Of the reteam, Vaughn said, “Mel is such a terrific filmmaker and Zahler has such a singular voice. He really sets out with a vision and doesn’t compromise on that, in an including wonderful way. With Mel being such a great filmmker, it was great to share the set with these guys.”

Vaughn won strong notices for his turn in last year’s Brawl and noted that Zahler’s characters “are all things. They’re not painted with one idea. You get people who are in conflict but you get to see why and the dualities and complexities of it.”

Zahler’s influences for Concrete include Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing and Sidney Lumet’s Prince Of The City and Dog Day Afternoon. “I’m interested in doing pieces where the world of the story is larger than just the plot.”

Racism is a theme in the film which includes some provocative discussion. Said Zahler, “I write to my taste, and in terms of reactions people will or may have aren’t really what I’m concerned with. I’m not chasing the biggest audience. I’m aware there are lines and moments in my films and books and future movies that will land poorly for some people or get people to hate me. That is your right. I have a right to do my own vision and hope it’s enough to get me to the next one.”

The $15M budget was bigger than any Zahler had worked with before. He joked it allowed him to “suffer,” but added, “It gave me more days so I could dig into the drama.”

Liongate is releasing domestically.