Movie Review – Brawl in Cell Block 99

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Amazon Prime is becoming the go to destination for great new movies. Netflix’s push toward original content is great but there is so much to see coming from so many avenues. Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a gritty movie about a determined man doing what he has to.

Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn) is a hard working man. He provides a nice life for himself and his wife, Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter).

It’s clear the world at large doesn’t give Bradley much respect. He loses a legitimate job for no real reason and he finds out his wife had been cheating on him. After dismantling her car with his bare hands Bradley gets his anger in check. He talks, respectfully, to Lauren and the two agree to patch things up.

Finding out Lauren is pregnant Bradley takes a job running drugs with someone from his old life. He is stuck working with two men he doesn’t know, or trust. The deal goes bad and Bradley does what he has to do. Bradley lands in prison.

He’s given an ultimatum while in prison to track down someone very well connected and kill them. If Bradley fails his wife and unborn child’s lives are on the line.

Known for his comedic chops Vince Vaughn leads Brawl. Swingers put him on everyone’s radar and that persona has followed him to some degree ever since. A few ventures into the dramatic showed audiences he could handle being serious. Until Brawl Vaughn has never been so intense. Bradley Thomas is a great character. He does bad things but isn’t a bad person. He follows his own moral code to the letter. His efficiency and intensity are matched only by his sheer physical size. Vaughn is a big guy and appears even larger in Brawl. His physical presence doesn’t go to waste. He steamrolls a strict prison system in intimidating and hilarious fashion.

The seedy world around Bradley is appropriate in feel. Nothing is out of place and it serves the plot. The script has all the fat trimmed off. This leaves a movie lacking a bit in flavor but has everything necessary to get you through. The lean finished product is entertaining and to the point. The run time is a tight 92 minutes. Writer/Director S. Craig Zahler had some room to do a bit more. Further stage setting around Bradley would explain the man more. Developing characters to match Vaughn’s presence on screen could have upped the ante.

Zahler’s directorial debut was the insane Kurt Russell lead Bone Tomahawk. Brawl’s violence doesn’t reach the same level but has the same realistic feel and gritty realism. Action scenes are quiet and quick. The hits are hard. The fights are dirty. Flourishes aren’t thrown in for the camera and the movie is better for it. Zahler and Vaugn are teaming up again in 2018 for Dragged Across Concrete. Get excited.

A brutal movie that delivers exactly what’s promised. A bit more development would be nice but Brawl in Cell Block 99 never lets the audience down. Here’s hoping to see a lot more from Zahler and a new chapter in Vaughn’s career.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 – 4/5

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