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Brawl In Cell Block 99 Review

Brawl In Cell Block 99 Review is a 2017 thriller about a former boxer-turned-drug runner who lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.

No one ever made a list of movie action stars and put Vince Vaughn‘s name anywhere near it. But maybe they should. S. Craig Zahler‘s Brawl In Cell Block 99 might not necessarily be typical of an action film, but it gives Vaughn a vicious vehicle in which he transforms everything you ever thought about the actor, redefining his career. It’s a jarring, minor masterpiece of a film with a monumental performance at its center.

Bradley (Vaughn) loses his job in the opening moments, a victim of cutbacks at the garage where he drove a tow truck. A stoic man, a skinhead with head shaved and a giant cross on his scalp, he arrives home to discover that his wife Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter) has been cheating. In response, he methodically destroys her car … with his bare hands, establishing much about who and what he is capable of. It seems to pacify him and after, he reconciles with her and they vow to rebuild, he choosing to return to his drug-running days, which he does, earning big money and in time, they are stable, in a new home and a baby on the way. Sure enough though, fate catches up and after a deal goes sour, he ends up in prison where he’s then blackmailed, a crime lord having kidnapped pregnant Lauren, forcing Bradley to put himself in super-max to take out a prisoner inside.

If you know anything about Zahler, and you really should, then you probably already can guess where the film is headed. His brilliant, disturbing, Bone Tomahawk was one of the best movies of 2015, despite not nearly enough people having seen it. And much like that film, Brawl In Cell Block 99 follows a similar pattern, breathlessly building a slow burn to the third act, with a romp through a nightmare of violence as Bradley gruesomely fights his way through a hellscape of abuse, with a warden named Tuggs (a very well cast Don Johnson) always in the mix. These brawls are brutal and with harrowing purpose, and Zahler stages them with precision, drawing them out into long ferocious battles that make it clear we are watching Vaughn do all the work. Like Bone Tomahawk, its startlingly realistic and as such, can be hard to watch, as bones break and skin torn asunder. It’s methodical, devoid of bombastics like a thumping score and flashy camera tricks, but rather cripplingly authentic, making it powerfully impactful.

All through this is Vaughn, who stands like a marble pillar throughout, and just as hardened. Bradley is a character of opposites, a man not inclined to temper or violence but surgically good at it when needed and there seems no force able to contain him once he is in motion. While the story gleefully doles out tropes of the genre, both Vaughn and Zahler take to it with mastery, resculpting expectations into a horrific dance of gore and rage. Vaughn is shockingly good, akin to casting Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love, the comedic rage-a-aholic these actors share between them clearly best served when focused on drama. You’re not going to find a better Vince Vaughn performance.

Brawl In Cell Block 99 is not mainstream, nor is it intended to be, and perhaps it’s a bit more accessible than Bone Tomahawk, making it well worth seeking out if possible. For fans of prison fight films, this will have plenty to celebrate, though it’s not a martial arts mega battle of chaos that many have become of late. This is a deeply human story with a character we are meant to fear and yet embrace entirely from frame one. It’s rare stuff and while it might be hard on the eyes at times, it’s remarkable everywhere else.

Brawl In Cell Block 99 Review

Movie description: Brawl In Cell Block 99 Review is a 2017 thriller about a former boxer-turned-drug runner who lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.

Director(s): S. Craig Zahler

Actor(s): Dan Amboyer, Jennifer Carpenter, Vince Vaughn

Genre: Thriller

  • Our Score
User Rating 4 (1 vote)