Friday, February 2, 2018

Film Review: Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (Review)
United States/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Amazon Video
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...an engaging and entertaining crime-thriller with some of the most explosively violent scenes I've seen in recent years."

A drug runner finds himself in prison after a deal goes bad.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 follows Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn), a former boxer who's down on his luck. Looking to rebuild his life with his unfaithful wife, Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter), Bradley decides to return to his life as a drug runner. All is well for about a year and a half. Bradley and Lauren live in a new house, they have a child on the way, and they have plenty of money to spare. However, after a deal goes bad, Bradley lands in prison. Things only get worse after Lauren is kidnapped by his former associates. The lives of Lauren and his unborn child are threatened. In order to save them, Bradley must fight his way to Cell Block 99 in a different maximum-security prison. It loses some steam during its second act, but it hits hard during its grand finale. The ending is brutal and effective.



Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a great film. It is a stylish crime thriller with plenty of action and suspense. There's even some very dark humor sprinkled on top. The story is emotionally effective thanks to its (mostly) grounded characters—there's a sense of raw realism here. Bradley is well developed and, despite his crimes, you can't help but empathize. He's very human, and that resonates with the audience. The film's extreme violence will definitely cause some cringing, flinching, and even some whimpering. Much like the director's previous film, Bone Tomahawk, the film uses the element of surprise to deliver its sequences of violence. It's a little more spread out this time around, but it is still impressive. Although it is graphic, it's not exactly excessive. It doesn't overwhelm the rest of the film or take away from the plot, which I think is an accomplishment.

Vince Vaughn was fantastic as the leading man. I hope to see him in more roles like this. Although her screen time was limited, Jennifer Carpenter was also good. The music was great, too. It really added to the style of the film—it gave it soul. The film was written and directed by S. Craig Zahler. Zahler's writing and direction were great. The film was a bit lengthy/bloated, which causes it to lose some steam during the second act, but the issue doesn't occur often. I think Zahler understands what he wants, and he gets it done without compromise. If he continues down this path, Zahler will be one of the most unique, daring, and entertaining voices in the industry. I look forward to seeing his next film.

Overall, Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a great film. It's an engaging and entertaining crime-thriller with some of the most explosively violent scenes I've seen in recent years. (It sort of reminded me of Green Room in that aspect, actually.) It also features one of Vince Vaughn's most impressive, transformative performances to date.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

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