Film

Dream Streams: Brawl in Cell Block 99

BrawlinCellBlock99_10

Service: Amazon Prime

Warning: This one is not for everybody.

If you don’t like violence, this isn’t for you. If you’re not a fan of grisly, gruesome images, this isn’t for you. If you ate something in the last half hour, this one isn’t for you.

Everyone else, stick around

Brawl in Cell Block 99 starts with Vince Vaughn going full-on Street Fighter bonus level and beating the absolute shit out of a car. If the title of this one didn’t warn you about the type of grit you were in for, watching a man dismantle a small automobile with his bare hands will. It’s brutal and hard to watch, which is a statement that can be repeated for basically every major scene in the film.

Credit Vince Vaughn for dominating this movie. He portrays BCB99’s (oh yeah, I’m still making my own abbreviations) main character Bradley Thomas with such an intense, powerful energy that he feels completely in control of every scene, often in spite of the actual power dynamic of the characters. It’s the kind of performance I’ve never seen from Vaughn before, but I hope to see again. Maybe if he had brought some of this character to his True Detective role, Season 2 would have been watchable. This movie is what that show could have been.

The crown jewels of BCB99 are the fight scenes. I touched on them earlier, in that I announced that they are brutal and difficult to watch. These aren’t Marvel superhero movie punches, by any means. They have real, visceral results. But I wanted also to mention the choreography of these scenes. It’s impeccable. They didn’t turn a gritty crime film into high-flying wire-fu. They kept the action grounded, which I think was the right decision even though I went in expecting The Raid : Redemption. Now, say what you will about the realism of Vince Vaughn taking as many hits as he does without faltering. God knows I want a guy with a Tapout shirt who trained at an MMA gym twice to argue with me about movie fight scenes. Compared to other movies in this genre (crime-fight? punch-drama?) the fights in BCB99 stand out as exciting and well-performed, and ultimately that’s what matters.

If you like scalp tattoos and exposed bones, check this one out.

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