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|Brawl in Cell Block 99|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||S. Craig Zahler|
|Written by||S. Craig Zahler|
|Edited by||Greg D'Auria|
|Distributed by||RLJE Films|
Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a 2017 American neo-noir prison thriller film written, directed and scored by S. Craig Zahler. It stars Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, Udo Kier, Marc Blucas and Tom Guiry. It was screened out of competition at the 74th Venice International Film Festival. The film was released in theaters on October 6, 2017, and on digital HD and video on demand on October 13, 2017, by RLJE Films.
Former boxer and drug mule Bradley Thomas is laid off from his job at an auto-repair shop. As he arrives home, he sees his wife, Lauren, sitting in her car talking to someone on her cellphone. Bradley approaches her and sees a lovebite on her neck. Lauren confesses that she has been seeing somebody else. Bradley orders her inside the house before he violently dismantles her car with his bare hands. When calm, he enters the house to discuss with Lauren their failing relationship. Bradley decides to forgive Lauren and returns to work as a drug mule.
Eighteen months later, Bradley and a now pregnant Lauren have relocated to a larger, more expensive home. Bradley's boss, Gil, introduces him to Eleazar, a new business associate, and gives him a new task. Bradley is to sail off the coast with two of Eleazar's men to pick up a package of crystal meth. Bradley does not trust the larger of the two men, Roman, but accepts the job when Gil offers him three months paternity leave. As they arrive at the pier, Bradley senses they are walking into a police trap and dumps his bag into the water. Bradley instructs the other two men to do the same, but they ignore his order and confront the police in a firefight, wounding three officers. Bradley intervenes by knocking out Roman in order to assist the police. The third drug trafficker dies in the shootout. Bradley is taken into custody and sentenced to seven years in a medium-security prison.
During the night, Lauren is kidnapped by men under orders of Eleazar. On the second day of his incarceration, Bradley is visited by the Placid Man, who informs Bradley that he works for Eleazar. He tells Bradley that, unless Bradley assassinates an inmate named Christopher Bridge, located in Redleaf Correctional Facility, a separate maximum-security prison, the limbs of his unborn child will be surgically removed by a Korean abortionist and sent to him. Bradley reluctantly accepts.
Bradley picks a fight with multiple guards, until he is overpowered and transferred to Redleaf. There, he meets unforgiving Warden Tuggs. Bradley is put into a horrible cell, where the toilet is clogged with feces. Eventually, he is able to go outside for yard time. When a fellow inmate informs him that Christopher Bridge is not located in this section of the prison but in another section known as cell block 99, Bradley fights some other inmates and consequently is thrown into cell block 99.
Warden Tuggs explains that cell block 99 is where he devises special punishments for society's most despised criminals. Bradley is forced to wear a belt that gives him electric shocks at a push of a button, as a punishment for the fight. His cell in block 99 is lined with broken glass and only contains a crude squat toilet hole. Bradley speaks to a man in an adjacent cell, who informs him that Christopher Bridge does not exist at all. During the night, a young guard named Wilson escorts Bradley to another, larger cell in block 99, where Eleazar, Roman, and two other gangsters are located. The gang torture Bradley with the electric belt, and taunt him by threatening to call the abortionist. He is shocked so badly that he needs to be dragged back to the cell unconscious.
Bradley devises a plan and tears the lining out of his shoes: he places the rubber between his body and the belt to prevent the shocks. This enables him to ambush Wilson and another guard; resulting in him killing Wilson. Bradley locks the second guard inside a cell. Bradley confronts Eleazar, and brutally kills all three henchmen in hand-to-hand combat. During the brawl, Eleazar calls the Placid Man and instructs him to activate the abortionist. Bradley first tortures Eleazar by breaking his leg, then calls the Placid Man to negotiate for Lauren's freedom. It is agreed that the Placid Man will deliver Lauren to Gil's house. Bradley drags Eleazar into his own cell, across the broken glass, to await confirmation of Lauren's freedom. Warden Tuggs and his men arrive at block 99, but Bradley threatens to kill his two hostages. Bradley states he is waiting for a phone call, and promises that he will surrender peacefully, exactly one minute after the call ends.
The Placid Man and the abortionist follow Eleazar's instructions and drive Lauren unharmed to Gil's house. As they drive away, Gil retrieves a hidden assault rifle and kills the Placid Man. Lauren then takes the rifle and shoots the abortionist. Gil phones Bradley to inform him that his family is finally safe. Bradley speaks to Lauren for the last time, and shares a few words with their unborn child.
Bradley destroys the cell phone, then reminds Warden Tuggs that he still has 60 seconds of freedom remaining. Bradley shoves Eleazar's face into the squat hole and stomps several times on his neck, decapitating Eleazar and leaving the head at the bottom of the toilet. Warden Tuggs and his men finally enter the cell. Bradley gives one last look at Tuggs, who then shoots Bradley twice, once in the chest and once in the head. The screen cuts to black on the third gunshot and Bradley's body hitting the floor is heard.
The film premiered at the 74th Venice International Film Festival on September 2, 2017. The film was released in theaters on October 6, 2017, and on digital HD and video on demand on October 13, 2017, by RLJE Films.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 91% based on 86 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Brawl in Cell Block 99 rides a committed Vince Vaughn performance into the brutally violent—and undeniably entertaining—depths of prison-set grindhouse genre fare." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 79 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
The film made year-end best of lists for Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, Collider, JoBlo.com, The A.V. Club, and others. The picture was a New York Times Critics Pick and was screened at the Museum of Modern Art, where it was added to the permanent collection.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars and praised Vaughn's performance, saying: "In the middle of all the wince-inducing, limb-bending, bone-crunching, face-exploding bloodshed, Vaughn turns in a legitimately great performance that ranks among the finest work he's ever done."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref.|
|Saturn Awards||June 27, 2018||Best Thriller Film||Brawl in Cell Block 99||Nominated|||
|Best Actor||Vince Vaughn||Nominated|