LFF 2017: Brawl in Cell Block 99

Cert: TBC Runtime: 132 mins Director: S. Craig Zahler Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Tom Guiry, Marc Blucas and Don Johnson

S. Craig Zahler’s astounding debut Bone Tomahawk amazed me. It has such grit and tenacity, I couldn’t wait for his follow up. Brawl in Cell Block 99 starring a Vince Vaughn that I enjoy watching these days. He really has turned his career around recently especially in True Detective Season 2. He really seems like a good fit for this film. What is Brawl in Cell Block 99 about you ask?  Vince Vaughn plays Bradley, a former boxer-turned-mechanic at a crossroads in his life. With his marriage on the rocks and his career well and truly in the gutter, he teams up with an old acquaintance for a stint as a drug courier. But while his risky new venture proves initially lucrative, a drug deal gone wrong sees him behind bars and set to face his toughest, most dangerous assignment yet.

This film delivers the violence, however, with a purpose and is almost just given the narrative. Zahler turns the protagonist into an antihero. With superb zeal. Nothing is gratuitous or overdone. It’s simply a great story with simple plot, done in a purposeful way. Bring a strong stomach with you to S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl In Cell Block 99, a casually vicious ode to 1970’s exploitation that pulls no punches, kicks, backhands or wet-crunchy head stomps that will make your balls retreat up in those nether regions. My only real gripes are that some of the dialogue exchanges are kind of stilted, and the staging of characters in some scenes seems too stiff and unnatural.

Vince Vaughn gives a solid performance – a strong emotional character, who only expresses his emotions when he is alone, otherwise he keeps straightforward and mixes little jokes in his treat for easing his own inner feelings. Jennifer Carpenter goes as realistic as it gets. The rest of the characters are well-developed too. Much like his grisly debut Bone Tomahawk, Zahler takes his time with the characters, developing the story around them to make them as complex as possible. With that and the editing it’s quite a while before the film resembles its title, Zahler doesn’t employ any fast cuts through his action scenes instead he’s willing to plant his camera in a room and let his actors get on with it.


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