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Brawl in Cell Block 99

Cover Media logo Cover Media 26/10/2017

Vince Vaughn is largely associated with comedies and playing the wise guy, cracking jokes and running his mouth, so it is odd yet refreshing to see him playing a serious hardman.

He plays Bradley, who loses his job at a car mechanic firm and becomes a drug runner for Gil (Marc Blucas). Although he has reservations, he is assigned to pick up a shipment by boat with two men he hasn't worked with before. Inevitably, the job goes wrong, the police show up and kill one of the men, while Bradley decides to kill the other.

He is taken to a minimum-security prison and shortly after he is visited by The Placid Man (Udo Kier) who informs him his pregnant wife Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter) has been kidnapped and they will kill their baby unless Bradley murders a certain inmate. However, the inmate is in the secluded Cell Block 99, in a nearby maximum-security prison, Red Leaf.

Bradley then begins his violent yet successful campaign of getting to the prison by brutally beating up prison wardens, and he is transferred to Red Leaf, which is run by Warden Tuggs (Don Johnson).

Cell Block 99 is reserved for the worst offenders and cut off from the rest of the facility, so again Bradley has to go on a butt-kicking mission until he ends up there and can carry out his task.

a man standing in front of a door © Provided by Cover Media

The title suggests the movie is a mindless, brutal action flick, and while it becomes that once we reach Red Leaf, it spends a good hour building character and isn't violent at all.

It explores Bradley's marriage to Lauren and how he conducts his business and the script is complex and smart. This means we are more invested in Bradley completing the job to save his wife and baby, even if his means are completely crazy.

The film does get incredibly violent, with bone breaking and face smashing galore, but rather than just making the audience wince, it leaves us laughing too. It never takes itself too seriously, recognising that it's all pretty ridiculous, and Bradley's campaign is highly entertaining.

Vaughn is very convincing as this unstoppable machine and it's a surprise he hasn't been thought of for this type of role before because he has the build for it. All he needed was a shaved head with a large cross tattoo across the back of it and a 'don't mess with me' demeanour.

Vaughn has been in a run of mediocre comedies in recent years, so perhaps this will mark a new phase for him.

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