Movie Review: Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

Written, directed and scored by C, Craig Zahler, Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a 2017 action thriller. Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughan) is a drug mule, working for Gil (Marc Blucas). When a run goes wrong, due tot he incompetence of Roman (Gino Segers), Thomas ends up in prison, and his girlfriend (Jennifer Carpenter) is taken hostage, with the only way to have her set free to kill an inmate of the infamous cell block 99.

+ it was cool seeing Gino Segers pop up again, after his incredible turn as Chayton Littlestone in the criminally underrated Banshee, and minor role in Bone Tomahawk (the first film directed by Zahler). For those who want something good out of this review, Segers is my pick for any and all live action versions of Batman villain, Bane


– I don’t know if Vaughn was going for some sort of “on the spectrum, no emotion” deal, or this was supposed to be a parody of the grindhouse action films of the past, but he was as uncompelling here as you could ever imagine. Bradley Thomas is equal parts anti-hero and straight up villain, though to pose the question “if bad guys having bad things done to them by a morally grey guy for a good reason is bad,” then you’re already putting more thought into this than anyone else did
– the violence was so ridiculous I couldn’t even cringe. Compare something like The Raid: Berandal‘s prison fight to the brawls in these cell blocks is like comparing the Statue of David to a play-doh model vomited up by your dog. Thomas snaps limps like twigs, literally doesn’t even flinch from most attacks (despite the silly “thwap” noises that still happen) and he comes out of almost every altercation almost entirely unscathed
– there is a lot of stuff that happens, or is said, that seems like it might be important later, only to never be mentioned again. I’d be fine if these were intentionally planned as red herrings, but as it stands it just feels like an unfinished script

Should you see this film: I heard that this was a must-see for fans of over the top gore, but I must have missed something critical in this movie, because I felt it was more of an over the top bore. Sick burns aside, this was 2 hours of some of the most awkward action scenes, stiff acting and nonsensical plot I have ever forced myself to watch, to the extent where I can’t help but assume this was just a tax write off for somebody.


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