Sunday, 22 April 2018

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (4½ Stars)

This is the ninth film in the Stuttgart Nights Festival.

This has been called the greatest performance of Vince Vaughn's career. I can see why. Throughout the film he treads a fine line between being a good guy and a bad guy, but he's always credible.

Vince Vaughn plays Bradley Thomas, a recovering alcoholic who works as a car mechanic. When he's fired there's only one job he can find that pays well enough to support himself and his wife: he delivers drugs for a friend of his. Bradley isn't a dealer, he just carries large sacks of drugs and collects the money.

When a deal goes bad due to the stupidity of his accomplices, Bradley turns against them. He shoots them to stop them killing the police. He's arrested and promised he can be let free if he cooperates by naming names, but he refuses to betray his friend. He's sentenced to seven years in prison.

Shortly after arriving in prison, where he intends to be a model prisoner to be paroled early, he's told that his former drug boss has kidnapped his pregnant wife. She will be killed unless Bradley agrees to assassinate another prisoner.

There are more complications in the plot, but I'll leave it there. This is an ultra-violent psychological thriller. Bradley looks like a monster -- Vince Vaughn is 6'5" and muscular -- but he's really as soft as a baby. All he wants to do is enjoy a happy life with his wife and daughter. However, he's forced to be a violent killer to do this.

The critics love the film. The general public doesn't. This is a rare case where I take the side of the critics. It was released in cinemas in America and England last year, but it did so badly that it won't be released in other countries. Is the film too violent for the public? Or is Vince Vaughn's brooding character too oblique? Whatever the reason is, I recommend "Brawl in Cell Block 99" to all my readers.

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