"Brawl in Cell Block 99" is an instant cult classic


This incredibly visceral but note-worthy movie is being released today, seek it by all measures. Here's what I wrote back at the Toronto International Film Festival:

"In “Brawl in Cell Bock 99Vince Vaughn plays Bradley Thomas. With a cross tattooed on the back of his skull, and impressively added muscle tissue to his physique, Vaughn’s transformation is a harrowing but impressive feat for the 47-year-old actor best known for his comedic roles in “Old School” and “Wedding Crashers.”

"Bradley, the violent, but honorable man he plays in the film is sentenced to seven years for selling drugs, and is then blackmailed by none other than 72-year-old Udo Kier, and is forced to cause as much damage as possible to get transferred to the incarceration hell that is “Red Leaf.” The warden of that prison is played by none other than Don Johnson who runs the place like a psycho bent on behavioral punishment. Once there, Bradley has to put himself in cell block 99 where he will have to kill a gangster in order to protect his kidnapped wife (Jennifer Carpenter) and unborn daughter."

"It’s all from the twisted mind of writer-director S. Craig Zahler whose “Bone Tomahawk” came and went in cinemas but gained cult classic status on home video and is now considered a western classic. His “Brawl in Cell Block 99” is destined for cult fame too. It’s a 132-minute gut punch which wears its ’70s grindhouse-inspired heart on its sleeve. The movie takes its time building up the character and letting us learn about what’s at stake for Bradley, and it’s not until the 75-minute mark that things start to shift into midnight-madness mayhem. Zahler is a step ahead at every twisted turn and when the first bone breaks, and he makes sure you hear it loud and clear. The action has a relentless feel that never stops, and it’s all anchored by Vaughn’s ruthless but endearing performance."