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Brawl in Cell Block 99

Brawl in Cell Block 99: Vicious Vince Vaughn Shines in Preposterous Prison Pic

  • Dan AmboyerJennifer Carpenter...
  • CrimeDrama
  • S. Craig Zahler
reviewed by
Marija Djurovic
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Brawl in Cell Block 99: Vicious Vince Vaughn Shines in Preposterous Prison Pic

Funnyman Vince Vaughn takes on one of his most serious – and shall we say – riskiest roles to date in S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99. Delivering what turns out to be a rather impressive, but not always convincing, performance, Vaughn is clearly the biggest draw for the feature which, apart from a few decently choreographed, but excessively violent, fight-scenes, doesn’t have much direction or anything boiling under the surface.

Vaughn plays Bradley; a patriot and former addict who get laid off from his job as a tow truck driver.  When he returns home, he discovers that his wife Lauren (a miscast Jennifer Carpenter) has been having an affair. His rage is soon taken out on her car which he manages to destroy with his bare hands. After hashing it out in one of the most uninspiring husband-wife heart-to-hearts, the pair soon decides to give their relationship another go.

Electing to work as a drug runner for his old-business partner, Gil (Blucas) the story fast-forwards to a year later with the couple now expecting a new baby and living in a bigger house in the suburbs. Things go wrong when Bradley agrees to take control of a large heroin shipment, a deal made with Mexican drug-lord, Eleazar (Mucciatoo). The deal, of course, goes awry with Bradley – making one of the dumbest mistakes seen on screen – landing himself a seven-year prison sentence as a result.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 is the kind of movie that likes to focus on all of the little details you wouldn’t otherwise see in a film and it’s because of this drawn-out and overly-exploitative approach – how long does it really take to check in a prisoner to a jail cell – that the film suffers the most. Penned by Zehler, it takes more than an hour to get to the point where Bradley is incarcerated and punches start flying. The question why Bradley got himself in that situation to begin with – apart from the fact that this is what the plot told him to do – is forever-present throughout the story’s lengthy runtime with his supposed tough-guy-but-man-with-family-values trait never quite coming across as a reliable resolution.

Sporting a shaved-head with a large crucifix tattooed on the back of it, Vaughn is a towering presence and deserves all of the praise for taking his career in a whole new direction. However, we never really get to know him – as a supposedly skilled drug runner we only get to see one menial package drop off in the entire movie – with the story failing to give his character the depth he needs.

Which brings us to the conclusion that Brawl in Cell Block 99 is not as interesting or as smart as it thinks it is. Taking pride in the excessive violence that it puts forth, the film suffers from a tedious plot that doesn’t really know what it wants to say. The poorly-engineered special effects don’t help either, especially in the movie’s final minutes, with the continuous skull crushing soon turning the movie into a cheap-prison parody instead of a visceral and bloody crime story it presented itself to be.

Like This? Try

Bone Tomahawk (2015), Starred Up (2013), A Prophet (2009)

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Vince Vaughn will be returning to his comedic roots in Stephen Merchant’s upcoming biographical-comedy-drama, Fighting with My Family alongside Dwayne Johnson and Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey.

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