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Amazon Prime Hidden Gem: Brawl in Cell Block 99

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“A former boxer-turned-drug runner lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.”

Earlier this year I was watching a panel of critics list their top ten favorite movies of 2017. Of course you had ITGet Out and others that we heard many times over, but one of the critics was extremely excited about a movie called Brawl in Cell block 99.

He said it was Vince Vaughn like he’s never seen him before and he had an excitement about it that was quite unique to the other critic’s reactions. The rest of the panel brushed him off (obviously never seeing the movie), but his enthusiasm intrigued me. A month or so later I saw Amazon Prime had the film available, so I decided to watch it.

The film starts as a slow burn, really fleshing out Vaughn’s character and the circumstances rising within his life. It gives you a great introspection of the downward spiral he is going through within his career and marriage, but quickly reveals that he is a fixer. It also gives you a glimpse early into the rage this man holds inside that he has full control over. A rage you can see has gotten him in and out of a lot of situations prior to where the film started.

As he continues, you can see this isn’t Vince Vaughn from Wedding CrashersAnchorman or The Intern. This is the dramatic Vince Vaughn we haven’t seen in a long time. Actually it was a new Vaughn. One that had gotten bigger and much more intimidating. The title may fool you a bit, but this film is about a man on a sound rampage.

He goes into prison during the latter part of the movie and when this happens, the film actually shifts a few notches within a matter of scenes. Facing a predicament that threatens his family, he is forced to do some extremely brutal acts with an unforgiving nature that makes you question what you’re watching.

This isn’t Vince Vaughn from Wedding Crashers, this is a new Vince Vaughn.

The beauty of the film is how his brutal nature is so violent and aggressive, but yet so controlled and calculated. It was almost poetic how his character managed to tread this line so effortlessly and with an unflinching understanding of using his force to get exactly what he wanted.

I will say that at times this movie does get into absurd levels of violence that reminded me of Quentin Tarantino’s direction in Inglorious Basterds or Django Unchained. It didn’t fit the flow of the rest of the movie, and took you out of it at moments, but the violence was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Even though disjointed, I was willing to accept it because of the Director’s gall to inject that level of cartoonish antics into such brutality.

Overall Grade: B+

This film was a great watch. Vince Vaughn was definitely a beast and really took this part seriously. The dialogue and environment building is palpable and the threats are unimaginable. You actually begin to root for this brute force of nature to win as he continues to encounter further unthinkable challenges, and handles them with his three best weapons: His two hands and his mind. Watch it! It’s good!

Brawl in Cell Block 99
Crime, Drama
October 2017
Director: S. Craig Zahler
RLJE Films
2 hours 12 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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White Right: Meeting the Enemy

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Deeyah Khan puts herself in real jeopardy in White Right: Meeting the Enemy, confronting the whitest rightest supremacists and Neo-Nazis with the oldest trick in the book; she becomes their first friend of color. No shit. You’ll be amazed as Deeyah proves racism is born from miseducation and a total lack of experience.  Sure, not everyone becomes a believer in the end, but you sure will.

 

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Ray Romano’s Dad Comedy Hits Home

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For his latest Netflix special, comedian Ray Romano returns to the Comedy Cellar doing two surprise gigs for unsuspecting fans. 

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Roma: Return of the Auteur

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Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is easy on the eyes yet sometimes hard to watch, which is a credit to the Director and that connection he creates between viewer and heroine – in this case Cleo, the family maid and emotional heartbeat of the film. We love and sympathize with Cleo immediately. There’s no way she’s making it to the end unscathed.

Cleo is part of the family, yet could be fired any minute for, say, not cleaning up after the dog the day Dad leaves the family forever. That uneasy precipice between acceptance and utility has made her a warrior that handles each situation with a compassion lacking in the noxious men around her.  She’s the Marge Gundersen of Mexico City – insofar as she spends much of the film pregnant, making all the right moves within a world where the options are questionable.

Cuarón does more with silence than most do with tons of exposition and editing. There’s a reason he’s the only person to be nominated for Best Director and Best Cinematographer in the same year.

Like some of the 1969 sci-fi movie Marooned referenced within the film, Roma moves at a snail’s pace – allowing the story to seep into being rather than seem forced upon you. Underlying anxieties of race and toxic masculinity bubble beneath the surface, tethering the zeitgeist of 1971 Mexico City to the here and now.

What Yalitza Aparicio brings to the role of Cleo is astounding. She has an unassuming charm yet commands the screen. A masterfully presented scene of Cleo in labor does something few films ever do: get me to suspend my disbelief. I’m always hyper-aware that there’s a sound guy holding a boom mic off camera and a slew of crew itching for craft services. It’s a curse that keeps me from enjoying movies like most folks do. But there are moments in Roma when I forgot I was watching people pretend. It’s a great trick if you can pull it off, and Roma does so with grace.

Roma (2018) 2h 15min | Drama | 21 November 2018 (USA) Summary: A year in the life of a middle-class family's maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s.
Countries: Mexico, USALanguages: Spanish, North American Indian, English, Norwegian, Japanese, German, French

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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