Fantastic Fest Movie Review: BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 is a Bloody Great Time
Get used to hearing the name S. Craig Zahler. With just two directing credits to his name, the writer/director/composer has already given us the great cannibal western Bone Tomahawk and now he returns to deliver the bone-crushing insanity that is Brawl in Cell Block 99. Mark my words, S. Craig Zahler will one day be mentioned alongside other greats, such as Quentin Tarantino, or even Scorsese.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 tells the tale of Bradley Thomas (a hulking Vince Vaughn in a performance you will not forget), a devoted family man who loves his country, but will do anything in his power to protect his family. This includes turning to a life of crime despite his principles, so that he can better provide for his wife (Jennifer Carpenter) and unborn daughter. When a drug deal goes south, Bradley finds himself in jail and in hot water with the Mexican cartel. Bradley soon discovers that he must kill a prisoner locked away in Cell Block 99 or else the cartel will do horrible things to his family.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 takes its time developing Vince Vaughn's character before it descends into the back half's titular brawl. When the film switches gears, you will not be prepared for the action choreography and pure brutality presented onscreen. The closest recent mainstream example I can possibly provide without spoiling things would be to point out the elevator sequence in Drive, except intensified to the 10th degree and extended for over 40 minutes. If you are into hardcore action, you will see things that will make you scream for glee.
Vince Vaughn and S. Craig Zahler are such a great team that they have joined forces once again for a new feature that has just finished filming called Dragged Across Concrete. In that film, they have also brought along Mel Gibson to join them in their quest to take brutal grindhouse cinema into the 21st century. Considering the immense leap Zahler has taken from Bone Tomahawk to Brawl in Cell Block 99, I cannot wait to see what they have in store.