Brawl in Cell Block 99
Film: Brawl in Cell Block 99
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Writer: S. Craig Zhaler
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Vince Vaughn and Marc Blucas
This film begins with a man driving a tow truck; he is played by Vince Vaughn. Vaughn is towing a car and brings it to a shop. When he arrives, the manager asks if he can speak to him in the office. Vaughn tells him that they can talk outside. He is then fired due to lack of business.
He arrives home to find his wife in her car; she is played by Jennifer Carpenter. He opens her door and she asks him why he is home. He notices a mark on her neck and she tells him she has been seeing someone. He takes her phone and looks at some messages. He tells her to go inside. He then destroys her car with his bare hands. He then goes inside and they talk. She asks if he wants her to leave. He tells her no, that they should try to have a baby, since their relationship has been rocky since her miscarriage. He also decides to go back to being a baggage handler for a drug dealer. She isn’t happy, but reluctantly agrees.
We jump 18 months into the future. Vaughn is back in the game. He has a nicer car. He has a nicer house and Carpenter is currently with child. He doesn’t want her doing anything that could hurt herself or the baby. Vaughn gets a phone call from his boss and he goes to his house.
His boss is played by Marc Blucas. He tells Vaughn about a deal he wants him to go on. A Hispanic man, played by Dion Mucciacito, comes in with two others. It is decided that Vaughn will take the two henchmen on a job that is jointly agreed upon by Blucas. Vaughn is against the idea, because he thinks that one of the guys is a junkie and he can’t trust him. He is told that he will do the job.
They are on a boat to collect a trunk from the bottom of a lake. They do and the trunk is thrown back in. When they get back to the pier, Vaughn suggests tossing all of the bags into the water and collecting them later, as it could be too hot for now. Guns are pulled on him and told that’s not how they are going to do it. The police then show up and a shoot-out ensues. Vaughn could walk away, but he decides to help the police. He is then arrested after he takes out the two thugs.
The detective tries to get Vaughn to rat out his boss in exchange for a lighter sentence. He won’t agree to this. Carpenter visits him and he tells her that she won’t see him until he gets out. He doesn’t want her at the trial and for his daughter to see him until he’s out. He thinks he’ll get 4-5 years, but with it being drug related, he probably won’t see an early release. He instead gets 7 years.
He is sent to medium security prison. He is ready to do his time and keep to himself. His wife is kidnapped though. A man comes to visit him in prison the next day; he is played by Udo Kier. Kier shows him the pictures and tells him that he wants his wife and baby to be okay; he needs to transfer to a maximum security prison nearby and murder an inmate.
On the way back to his cell, he attacks a guard, breaking his arm. He then attacks the other guards who are escorting him to a new cell. He gets what he wants and is sent to the other prison. The warden there is played by Don Johnson. We see that he is no nonsense. Vaughn is sent to a disgusting cell as punishment for what he did at the last place. He needs to get to Cellblock 99, which he learns is for the worst of the worst. During his first time in the yard, he goes after another group of people as well as guards.
Cellblock 99 is much worse than he realized. Can he survive there and the treatment the guards give him? Can he find his inmate? Does he exist? Or what does Mucciacito have in store for him?
I have heard about this film from podcasts that saw it at festivals. I had the idea coming in that it is paying homage to the 1970’s exploitation films from that era. I definitely agree with that. Some of the action and fight scenes are blocky like they were back then. There really was only one of them that I had issue with and that was when he is fighting with the Hispanic guy during the gunfight with the police early on. Other than that, they are brutal. I love the concept and the twist when he gets to Cellblock 99. Some of the things that happen throughout the film are a little too convenient, but that doesn’t ruin the film for me. I do enjoy the ending.
The acting for this film was pretty good. Vaughn was solid as the no nonsense guy. He doesn’t take crap from anyone and has morals. He is respectful despite his profession which is something that I can respect for him. It makes him an anti-hero. Carpenter isn’t great in this film, but she’s not horrible. She really is just there to give Vaughn a reason to fight. I really liked Johnson as the jerk warden. He isn’t a bad guy, but he has rules he needs followed. It was also good to see Kier, as he is a veteran actor. The rest of the supporting cast is solid.
Next I need to talk about the effects. They look to be practical, which I love. The gore is slightly over the top, but I loved every second of it. It is over the top in the way that some of the things that happen, probably wouldn’t. It does look pretty realistic though. The film is truly brutal. The editing was well done also. This film runs a little over 2 hours, but it doesn’t feel like it. Things move through pretty quickly to get to the ending. The tension also builds throughout, making you sick to your stomach knowing what he will have to do next. The score for the film didn’t really stand out to me and it also doesn’t hurt the film in my opinion either.
Now with that said, I would recommend giving this one a viewing. If you like crime, drama films, then I definitely would give it a chance. This film is borderline horror for me due to tone of the film and the brutality. It is quite realistic looking. The situation he has to put himself in to save his family is quite horrific. The film is a little bit too convenient for some of the plot points, but it is fun to watch. The ending was good to me. I thought the acting was solid. The gore is over the top, but still realistic looking. The editing is tight and builds tension to the climax. The score doesn’t hurt or help the film in my opinion. I would say that this is a good film and worth a viewing. Horror fans might not consider this horror, but I do think that this borders enough to be considered one.
My Rating: 8 out of 10