Blu-Ray Review: Brawl in Cell Block 99

Since Vince Vaughn burst onto the scene with his performance in Doug Liman’s critically-acclaimed comedy-drama Swingers, his career has hardly taken the trajectory many expected. Most of his success has come in comedies, with notable performances in the likes of Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Old School and The Break-Up. His forays into ‘serious cinema’ have largely been forgettable. However, in last year’s impressive Hacksaw Ridge he demonstrated a different side to his acting, and in Brawl in Cell Block 99 he’s almost transformed.

Just when Bradley Thomas (Vaughn), a former alcoholic and drug dealer, thought his day couldn’t get much worse, he’s laid off from his job and then discovers his wife Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter) is cheating on him. In order to save his marriage and turn his life around, he goes back to drug smuggling; working for his friend Gil (Marc Blucas). However, when his boss gets involved with a cartel, it leads to his incarceration and to Bradley (literally) fighting to save his wife.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 is an unforgivingly brutal drama. Director S. Craig Zahler follows up his blood-soaked Bone Tomahawk with an equally grizzly drama. Once again, there’s a fight for survival. Vaugn embodies brute strength and raw determination, missed with a kind of steady wisdom. Bradley is willing to do anything to protect those he loves and to do what is right. Whilst Brawl in Cell Block 99 doesn’t have the scope of Zahler’s debut, it is more focussed and self-contained. It doesn’t quite reach the same heights, but is another notable entry on his resumé.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 is available on digital download now and on Blu-ray and DVD from 26 December.

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