Brawl in Cell Block 99 is the deliciously violent turn for the commonly-comedy-cast Vince Vaughn as Bradley Thomas, who in the opening scenes of the film, beats up a car with his bare fists. Written and directed by S Craig Zahler (who debuted with Bone Tomahawk in 2015) the fierce, explicit movie follows the recovering alcoholic through the gritty drama of discovering his wife (Jennifer Carpenter) is cheating on him, through to the 70s-grindhouse-inspired core of the film, which unfolds once he is jailed for seven years after a joint deal with a Mexican cartel goes wrong.
Transformed from his previous incarnations as the witty, affable male in many a romcom, Vaughn’s 6ft 5 frame re-emerges in Brawl as a wholly intimidating physical presence, with his clean-shaven, tattooed head undermining any remnant of softness. That’s not to say the film is without its comedy, though here it is of dark, dark shade. Whether or not it marks a turning point in Vaughn’s movie career, this role shows his previous typecasting perhaps has not done his abilities justice.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Zahler and Vaughn ahead of the film’s UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival. Zahler explained his ongoing interest in violence, action and drama in film and his inspiration for this story. Vaughn spoke of the pleasure of working with Zahler and Jennifer Carpenter, with whom he has another upcoming project, Dragged Across Concrete, and how he tapped into his violent side to play the aggressive Bradley Thomas.
By Sarah Bradbury. First published in The Upcoming on 20th October 2017.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 is released nationwide on 20th October 2017.
Watch the trailer for Brawl in Cell Block 99 here: