+ high-res version

Watched: 23 November

A pulpy, 1970s or early 80s-style genre piece by S. Craig Zahler, whose debut film Bone Tomahawk started off as a kind of VHS version of The Searchers – with Kurt Russell in the John Wayne role – before about-turning down a path marked ‘Rather gruesome and bone-crunching, graphic horror, Sir? This way, please…’. Brawl In Cell Block 99, by contrast, is a contemporary tale, in which Vince Vaughn’s mechanic is hit by a double whammy early on: he loses his job and discovers that his pregnant wife has cheated on him. Deciding to renew old ties and work temporarily as a drug courier, his life takes a further turn for the worse during his first pick-up and he eventually finds himself in a maximum security prison under the watchful eye of Don Johnson’s vicious warden. As per the first film, Zahler witholds most of the brutal violence until the final act, in which the titular brawl takes place; I was a bit put off by the extremity of certain scenes within the finale, but imagine these will be the high point for a lot of people. I still enjoyed plenty within the rest of the film: Vaughn gives one of his better performances (‘career best’ they say, but I don’t really know about that) and benefits from a sharp script with several good lines tossed back in the faces of his adversaries. His smartass is a great anti-hero, even if you may have conflicted feelings about rooting for him. It reminded me of early John Carpenter, at times. (***)



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  1. December 19, 2017

    We seem to be on the same page here, man. I have it 3.5 but felt generous doing so. Many critics look bed this one but it left me a bit disappointed as throughly enjoying Bone Tomahawk. I just didn’t quite catch onto this the way many others seemed to.

    • Stu #
      December 19, 2017

      Yeah, I also prefer Bone Tomahawk, though again the violence is on another level, at least compared with what I’m used to. Punishing stuff!

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