A former boxer named Bradley loses his job as an auto mechanic, and his troubled marriage is about to expire. At this crossroads in his life, he feels that he has no better option than to work for an old buddy as a drug courier. This improves his situation until the terrible day that he finds himself in a gunfight between a group of police officers and his own ruthless allies. When the smoke clears, Bradley is badly hurt and thrown in prison, where his enemies force him to commit acts of violence that turn the place into a savage battleground. From the director of Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99 stars Vince Vaughn (Hacksaw Ridge), Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”), Udo Kier (Blade) and Don Johnson (“Miami Vice”).
You've never seen Vince Vaughn like this in a movie before. Usually, he's the confident, funny man in comedies, but with this new film from S. Craig "Bone Tomahawk" Zahler, Brawl In Cell Block 99, you get a brutal, violent, and bald-headed Vaughn who is capable of more than just jokes and a punch or two.
Vaughn stars as a man named Bradley who has a famously bad temper (he's known to literally destroy cars with his bare hands when he's pissed off). Desperate to make his marriage work after some tough times, he returns to a life of crime running drugs for a childhood friend until a deal goes bad and he winds up in prison.
One day, a creepy man (Udo Kier) informs Bradley his wife and unborn child have been kidnapped and that parts of them will be mailed to him in prison if Bradley doesn't kill another inmate. But the catch is this inmate isn't even in Bradley's prison. So, to save his wife and child, Bradley not only needs to kill a man, but also find a way to get transferred into, and then survive, a maximum security prison lead by the brutal Warden Tuggs (Don Johnson).
This 132-minute film flies by in what seems like an hour. There are no side storylines or tangents. It's all straight and to the point with Vaughn at the center, portraying one of the best roles he's ever played. He's actually the only good man in the story, but what makes him so fascinating is that he's also the most brutally violent. With Vaughn's size and stature, it's easy for him to take on any opponent and for us to believe it too (though Zahler does add some great jokes about his size throughout the film). For those wondering about the blood and guts aspect, you can definitely expect some nasty fight scenes that will make you wince and curl up in your viewing seat. With that harshness though, comes with an almost angelic ballet of fighting from Vaughn that we've never seen before.
Brawl In Cell Block 99 won't be for everyone, but it's certainly not one to miss, particularly for Vaughn's performance.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Brawl In Cell Block 99 comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc and a DVD copy of the film, which are Region A and Region 1 locked, respectively. There is no insert for a Digital HD copy. The discs are housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The standard Blu-ray version looks good, if not almost the same as the 4K UHD version. There are only a couple of minor differences. Detail is still sharp and vivid in close-ups, for the most part, but due to the stylized use of filters and the blue and orange tints, some of the wider shots look a little soft. Close-ups show facial textures, scars, and stubble on Vaughn's face quite well along with prison uniform stitching.
Colors aren't bright in this movie at all. Instead, there is a blue filter applied throughout most of the film, which gives every aspect of the image some sort of blue, silver, or greenish hue (even the orange jumpsuits are muted). For the last couple of scenes of the film, an orange filter takes over for the blue, leaving the presentation a bit hazy and glowing red or orange. The black levels aren't particularly deep, sometimes showing crush and halos. The skin tones aren't natural either, but that's due to the stylized filters. Basically, everything is just muted in this image.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Just like the film's visual style, the audio is very subdued. Punches are muffled, but more realistic than most action movies. The other gooey sound effects -- bone crunching and face smashing -- are quite impressive and won't soon leave your thoughts, while larger effects -- gunshots and jail doors -- echo with powerful reverb.
Other than that, the sound is quite soft most of the time. Ambient noises of other prisoners talking come up, but it isn't much. Dialogue is crisp, clear and easy to follow along with Vaughn's unique southern accent. The bass kicks in with gun blasts, but with other fist fights, it's rather complacent, but still adds a subdued layer of depth. With this type of movie and it's original style, this audio mix does a great job.
Brawl In Cell Block 99 is a great and unique film that is, somehow, sweet and ultra-violent all at the same time. The fight choreography isn't stylized at all, which brings in a very realistic feel to the movie. Vince Vaughn shines, giving one of his best performances yet and I can't wait to see him in more roles like this one.The video and audio presentations both do their job, but the 4K UHD looks a little better. Regardless of format, you don't want to miss this one. Highly Recommended!
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.