Director: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson
Release Date: December 26, 2017
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 9.5/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
A former boxer named Bradley (Vince Vaughn) loses his job as an auto mechanic, and his troubled marriage is about to expire. At this crossroads in his life, he feels that he has no better option than to work for an old buddy as a drug courier. This vocation improves his situation until the terrible day that he finds himself in a gunfight between a group of police officers and his own ruthless allies. When the smoke clears, Bradley is badly hurt and thrown in prison, where his enemies force him to commit acts of violence that turn the place into a savage battleground.
‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’ follows Bradley (Vaughn), a man trying to get his life in order who following desperate times is forced to return to his old job of being a drug courier in order to provide for his family. But when a shipment pickup goes terribly wrong and results in a shootout with local police, Bradley finds himself arrested and with a lengthy prison term looking unavoidable. Once incarcerated, he soon finds his family threatened unless he is willing to turn the prison into a war ground in order to appease those holding the fate of his loved ones over him. Now Bradley must play their bloody game in order to guarantee his family’s safety, regardless of the consequences.
Written and directed by the incredibly talented S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) who does a tremendous job at the helm of ‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’ delivering one truly impressive sophomore directorial effort. The film also owes a great deal of credit to the talented individuals that make up the cast and truly allow this emotional and human tale to work as tremendously as it does. Including Vince Vaughn (TV’s True Detective), Jennifer Carpenter (TV’s Dexter), Marc Blucas (TV’s Necessary Roughness), Udo Kier (Blade), Don Johnson (Cold In July) and more who nearly all offer notable performances in each of their respective roles. Particularly Vaughn who is simply amazing in the lead role, delivering what is quite possibly the finest performance of his career so far.
‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’ is absolutely outstanding. An emotional, riveting and at times downright brutal tale with a calm, composed tension always seeming to loom around each dark corridor. A powerful and gripping portrayal of one man’s dark journey and the lengths at which he is willing to go in order to protect those dearest to him, it should easily pull viewers in and not relent until the credits roll. Part powerful drama, part gritty thriller, and at times almost channeling grindhouse style films with its over the top gore. As a whole, it comes together into a truly fantastic piece of filmmaking that almost never falters throughout its gritty and emotional course. Passionately guided along each powerful turn by director S. Craig Zahler whose vision and guidance is tremendously complimented by a talented cast led by Vince Vaughn who is nothing short of outstanding in the lead, easily delivering one of his finest (if not the finest) performances of his career with his portrayal of Bradley. I would strongly urge folks who appreciate independent filmmaking at its finest to give ‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’ a whirl whenever you can find the chance, along with fans of Vince Vaughn who is at his absolute best here, and of noteworthy filmmaker S. Craig Zahler who continues to amaze and has clearly proven he’s a true talent whose career is more than worthy of keeping a close eye on.
Overall, ‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’ is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking that takes viewers on a tale that’s emotionally gripping, at times unsettling and in its own right often quite beautiful. All expertly guided by writer and director S. Craig Zahler and boosted tremendously by a wonderful cast that never disappoints. ‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’ is highly recommended, while the film certainly won’t be for everyone, fans of filmmaker S. Craig Zahler’s remarkable ‘Bone Tomahawk’ definitely won’t want to miss out on his sophomore directorial effort which if anything is even more impressive than his debut. Fans of Vince Vaughn will also want to be sure not to miss out on this one; Vaughn delivering a powerful performance that’s easily one of the best of his career. ‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’ should certainly be worth a couple hours of your time and possibly the cost of a rental if it’s not currently available on your favorite streaming provider.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks quite fantastic as a whole and provides a sharp, clean and detailed presentation throughout that captures the deep, rich colors and other unique filming choices within splendidly. It holds up impressively even during the dark and at times nearly pitch black sequences, never allowing anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a wonderful high definition video presentation from RLJE Films that should have no trouble satisfying both fans of the film and first time viewers.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack delivers a clean, crisp and at times fairly aggressive audio presentation from start to finish. Taking advantage of all five available channels in order to send music, calm and composed sound effects, plus crowd chatter and more throughout the various speakers when appropriate, and always making sure that all dialogue and other audio elements that may be occurring simultaneously remain clean and fully audible. Overall, this is a more than competent 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that delivers in every way required of it and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’ includes a couple noteworthy extras. Included on the release is a Behind the Scenes Featurette ‘Journey To The Brawl’ (running approximately 15 minutes in length) which includes behind the scenes footage, interviews/comments with the cast and a crew, plus more. We are also treated to a ‘Beyond Fest Q&A’ (running approximately 31 minutes).