Brawl in Cell Block 99 movie poster
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Brawl in Cell Block 99
Brawl in Cell Block 99 movie poster

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Badass through and through, Brawl in Cell Block 99 will leave you bloody and breathless even if the tough-as-nails crime drama doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Vince Vaughn turns into a living version of the Terminator in this violent thriller about a man on a mission—and no one, nor anyone’s skull, bones or flesh will stand in his way.

Vaughn is terrific as Bradley Thomas, a convict who goes on a rampage in prison to save his kidnapped wife and unborn child. Vaughn’s forays into serious fare have been met with some derision, whether it be his turn as Norman Bates in the poorly conceived Pyscho remake or as Frank Semyon in True Detective: Season 2. But make no mistake: with bulging muscles, a shaved, tattooed head and a near-robotic temperament, Vaughn’s Bradley Thomas is one of the most entertaining characters put to screen all year.

The movie itself, from writer/director S. Craig Zahler, is a fun ride, as long as you don’t mind slow builds and ultra-brutal bursts of violence. Similar to his last project, Bone Tomahawk, Zahler is extremely patient as he develops his lead character and works toward his ultimate end-game. With an overall runtime of 130 minutes, it’s hard to argue that Zahler couldn’t have cut and tightened in places—especially in the first act.

But once the movie kicks into gear it’s hard to turn away. The action is violent bliss, and Zahler rarely if ever cuts away, even when Vaughn is kicking men’s heads into mush.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 isn’t the greatest film of this millennia as some have suggested, but there is no denying its appeal. Thanks to a fierce performance by Vince Vaugh and relentless but purposeful violence, Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a can’t-miss thriller.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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