BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 | A baldheaded Vince Vaughn comes out swinging…
Those who saw S. Craig Zahler’s western Bone Tomahawk will know that he’s a writer-director who understands the power of movie violence. From its very title, his latest film, Brawl In Cell Block 99, indicates that we’re in for a bruising encounter. “It’s just the story I want to tell,” Zahler shrugs. “My writing process is to surprise myself: when I get dark – and my imagination can get pretty damn dark – then I have to do something that I find darker.”
A love story wrapped inside a prison movie, Brawl sees Vince Vaughn’s incarcerated, shaven-headed drugrunner faced with a dilemma: kill a fellow inmate or his kidnapped wife Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter) will see their unborn child’s arms and legs removed by an abortionist. “The shit that came out of his mouth when I wrote it, I probably shouldn’t have written it,” admits Zahler. “And that’s exactly why it’s in there.”
Yet this predicament is exactly the motivation needed for Vaughn’s Bradley Thomas, “a man with a lot of violence inside him” who only returned to narcotics distribution to provide for his family-to-be. Worse still, Bradley is not even in the right jail to complete his mission. After beating on every guard in sight, he gets a transfer to Red Leaf maximum security, the prison from hell run by Don Johnson’s sadistic warden.
What really stands out are the electric fight scenes, as Bradley brawls his way into Block 99. The result makes even the finale of Bone Tomahawk seem timid. “I didn’t want to put my actors in a situation where they all get hurt,” says Zahler. “There was never the moment, ‘Are we going to need to stop shooting?’ But we needed to have people who were game.”
The cast must have enjoyed the experience, as Zahler is now shooting cop drama Dragged Across Concrete with Vaughn, Carpenter and Johnson. But despite another brutal-sounding title, Zahler assures us it’s not all bloodshed. “I’m as invested in the dramatic portion as the violence.” Get the bandages ready just in case.
ETA | 20 OCTOBER / BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 OPENS NEXT MONTH. REAd TF’S REvIEW ON P45.
HARd CELL Vince Vaughn as drug-running con Bradley, who must scrap his way through prison to save his unborn child’s limbs. Yes, you read that right.