Brawl in Cell Block 99


A new cult crime-thriller classic is born Discuss this article

© ITP Images

Bulked up, ripped and in no mood to wisecrack, Vince Vaughn has undergone one of those actorly transformations that often signals a quest for gold statues.

But it turns out that he’s after something much more endearing: he wants to become the new Charles Bronson.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 is the kind of vicious, no-nonsense prison drama that dads dream about when the TV is finally theirs to command. Deliberately paced and styled (every bone crunch is lovingly amplified), the movie builds to a brisk boil: stoic Bradley (Vaughn), who often lets his shaved, tattooed dome do the talking, is a recently laid-off mechanic. Returning to the criminal world where he made his name, he’s involved in a dodgy deal gone worse than wrong. Bradley nods goodbye to his heavily pregnant wife (Jennifer Carpenter, so wasted by Hollywood, until now) and settles into a medium-security facility staffed by benign guards for a seven-year stint.

Indie writer-director S. Craig Zahler has no interest in your typical shiv fights for dominance; he sends his plot on a near-surreal trajectory when Bradley learns that his wife has been kidnapped by a crime kingpin who requires him to up his bad behaviour so he will be transferred to a scarier prison to take out a squealer. Brawl then becomes a nightmare, a bravura smackdown of scenes of skull-splattering, ratings-boards-baiting violence that are truly sickening (and wonderful). Put it this way: if you liked The Raid, you’ll lap this up. If, on the other hand, you prefer your movies to not punch you in the face you’d better duck. There’s no deep meaning here, just grindhouse.

The bottom line
A new cult crime-thriller classic is born.

By Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

Brawl in Cell Block 99

  • Duration: 132
  • Released: Thu, 26 Oct
  • Classification: 18+
  • Language: English
  • Director: S. Craig Zahler
  • Stars: Dan Amboyer, Jennifer Carpenter, Vince Vaughn

Add your review/feedback

Subscribe to weekender newsletter



Explore by

Our favourite features