Saturday, March 31, 2018

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

No two ways about it - I'm definitely behind filmmaker S. Craig Zahler and his cinematic endeavors after seeing his feature debut, "Bone Tomahawk" and now, after "Brawl on Cell Block 99", he's a cool two-for-two. This one's a blast of fun, 'grindhouse'-style violence that doesn't go about playing it up as a trite, fanboy-inspired gimmick.

Getting fired from his job and on the outs with his ol' lady - a former drug trafficker decides to get back into the game in order to piece his life back together. Shit goes well and within 18 months he and his pregnant wife are situated in a mansion with a steady flow of dope-money coming in. That is, until his employer assigns him to do a pick-up with a pair of junked out Mexicans and shit takes a disastrous turn, landing him in a 7-year prison stretch. Soon after his incarceration, he gets word from an associate of rival drug dealers that his wife has been kidnapped and their unborn child will be prenatally dismembered if he does not follow through on their orders of snuffing out a prisoner in another, much harsher prison. From there, he is forced to climb the ranks of 'problem inmate' in order to reach the rough, prison-within-a-prison - Cell Block 99.

Firstly, it's definitely weird seeing Vince Vaughn in something that isn't total horse shit. He's no great actor, but after seeing him in "Brawl...", I can't help but find it a shame that he was typecast in so many insipid rom-coms all those years when he can clearly pull off a role with some 'balls'. Kudos to him. Also, Don Johnson shines as the cold, cigar-puffin' warden of the maximum security 'uber-prison'. This is just an all around entertaining flick that is occasionally over-the-top with its sadistic and grim hoosegow settings and violence. There's a clear tendency the film has at times of not taking itself too seriously, which really fits well alongside the more 'serious', in nature, moments. In all, it IS a fine example of modern 'grindhouse'-style cinema without all of much too obvious references that could have turned it into a total goof movie. Highly recommended!

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