I think it's safe to say that Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a fitting title that rather appropriately encapsulates the entire film itself. You're getting into exactly what you think you're getting into. From London Film Fest, here's my review.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 is what it says on the tin. They say revenge is a dish best served cold. And this is one delicious serving of cold, unflinching cell block brawling and violence. When Vince Vaughn’s Bradley finds himself serving time in prison, he is tasked with finding a man and killing him in order to save his wife (Jennifer Carpenter) and his unborn baby girl. When events lead him to Cell Block 99 in maximum security, chaos unfolds. And it's violent. It’s certainly worth noting that this film is not for the faint of heart. Brawl is brutal and gory; bones crunch and heads are smashed. But it's excellent to watch, director S. Craig Zahler does a stellar job of directing such visceral, blood-soaked and exhilarating sequences that will constantly keep you entertained, shocked and on the edge of your seat.
However, it's not all guts and galore in Brawl and the first half of the film is focused on setting up the characters and the premise at hand but, unlike most B-rate thrillers of this calibre, the screenplay here is riveting and does a subliminal job of setting the stage enough that, when the action does eventually come (and it comes in the tenfold), it has an impact and it has a purpose and doesn't just feel excessive and gory for the sake of being excessive and gory. It elevates the proceedings a level by really adding some genuine stakes. The screenplay never quite reaches the emotional heights the film perhaps wants it to but it’s effective enough and it’s all anchored by a great performance from Vaughn, in a very different role than we've seen him in before. But he sells it and we believe him as this hardcore brawler.

The best thing about Brawl in Cell Block 99 is its irreverence for being anything more than an enjoyable, Saturday night flick. This is a film that never takes itself too seriously. It starts off on a realistic note but continually gets more and more over-the-top but it embraces this and really goes for it and it makes for a film that is terribly entertaining. Pacing isn't Zahler's strongest suit, though, and with a run-time already clocking in at 132 minutes, it can suffer in the middle act as a result, but, again, this film was never going to be a masterpiece. It doesn't need to be. It’s violent and gory and stomach-turningly so; every visceral punch and skull crack can be felt. This is just a thoroughly entertaining, stylish and badass B-rate action film that is absolutely bonkers. But it's also just so damn fun.


Brawl In Cell Block 99 is what it says on the tin. This is one violent, visceral and thoroughly satisfying affair.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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