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Brawl in Cell Block 99 - Blu-ray Review

5 beers

Know this: Bone Tomahawk, the horror western that tore at our guts last year, was no fucking fluke.  Writer/director S. Craig Zahler is the real deal when it comes to B-movie minded badass pictures and Vince Vaughn, bald and in shape as the drug dealing focal point of the movie, is a car dismantling titan – complete with a cross tattoo on the back of his head - in Zahler’s follow-up feature, Brawl in Cell Block 99

The film opens with Vaughn, playing Bradley Thomas, a reformed tow truck operator, getting laid off.  He goes home to discover that his wife, Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter), is having an affair.  And so he beats up her car.  Literally.  He tears it apart, throwing its hood in the yard and gutting it of its life.  He and Lauren have to make a change.

And so he quits the clean life, trading in the sour times for sunshine living and bigger houses.

It’s back to drug running and – 18 months later – life has significantly improved.  With cool R&B classics as its driving music, Zahler packs his second film with more soul and whole hell of a lot more meanness as Bradley – because you don’t dare call him Brad – makes his rounds, impregnates his wife, and finds himself in jail with a new assignment, thanks to the unwarranted visit from Placid Man (Udo Kier) to kill an inmate at the notorious Red Leaf prison or his wife and his unborn baby gets killed. 

But Warden Tuggs (Don Johnson), once Bradley arrives at the maximum-security penitentiary, just isn’t going to make it easy on him.  With enough brutality to make Rambo look like a children’s movie, Brawl in Cell Block 99 slow burns its way into your retinas. 

With cool blues and steady blacks, this production is steely affair of muscles and machismo.  Brawl in Cell Block 99, at a time when too many movies are taking themselves way too seriously, is a startlingly groovy time in matinee land.  Just watching Vaughn go toe-to-toe with the law and with other drug runners in an extended shootout gone wrong is seriously – thanks to long takes and no quick edits – a jaw-dropping experience. 

The movie, quite literally, lands every punch, knocking its audience back on their heels with crackling dialogue and a crisp narrative that, while very much-ingrained in the universe of schlocky B-movies, feels shocking and original and so completely new that it’s unforgettably bad to the bone.  You see bones break; skin tear; blood spatter every which way.

Bradley, thanks to his uber violent tendencies, finds himself in a world of hurt inside the tightly controlled prison.  He’s so closely watched within the heavily guarded prison that his job – now that he is in far too in debt to a Mexican drug cartel – feels next to impossible.  And the scenes of his pregnant wife being tortured don’t help things at all.  This is a tight fight to the finish and it puts Vaughn in a seriously great place to ring in the New Year from. 

With this release, writer/director S. Craig Zahler earns a new devotee.  Brawl in Cell Block 99 is damn legit.


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Brawl in Cell Block 99 - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
132 mins
: S. Craig Zahler
S. Craig Zahler
Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson
: Crime | Drama
Memorable Movie Quote: "Every once n a while I see a man sitting in that chair who could just as easily be on this side of the table."
Theatrical Distributor:
RLJE Films
Official Site: www.facebook.com/brawlincellblock99
Release Date:
October 6, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 26, 2017
Synopsis: A former boxer-turned-drug runner lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.


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Brawl in Cell Block 99 - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Image Entertainment
Available on Blu-ray
- December 26, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH ; French; Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

The blu-ray release from Image Entertainment presents an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. The image is crystal clear with sharp, pinpoint details and no major technical flaws. The cinematography is often bathed in blue or green light so flesh tones are expectedly a little pale but fit in with the rest of the transfer. Black levels are of a high quality. The release also features a pounding DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track. Music is strong and smooth, with a powerfully natural and dominant presence. Big, heavy effects often rule the day, with gunfight and explosions throughout while the ambient effects are somewhat limited but nevertheless engaging.



  • None

Special Features:

Clocking in at a whopping 132-minutes, the film might not be for everyone; however, it flies by.  Seriously.  This release includes a DVD copy of the movie and two supplemental materials: one a 15-minute behind the scenes look at the movie and the other a 32-minute unedited Q&A session.

  • Journey to the Brawl (15 min)
  • Beyond Fest Q&A (32 min)


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Brawl in Cell Block 99 - Blu-ray Review