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Brawl in Cell Block 99 2017 ****

S. Craig Zahler is working on a fairly unique angle in American cinema; it’s hard to imagine he cares about test audiences or anything really, other than positioning himself at the modern day answer to Sam Fuller, Peckinpah or perhaps Edward Bunker. Vince Vaughn puts aside his avuncular Fred Claus schtick to play Bradley Thomas, a tough guy who gets sent to jail when a crystal meth job goes wrong and a cop is killed. Eight years in the slammer might sound bad enough, but a mysterious henchman (Udo Kier, who else?) gives Thomas an even darker goal; his son will be mutilated unless Thomas infiltrates the highest security area of the jail and kills a target. Thomas is transferred to the deadly Redleaf Facility, where Warden Tuggs (Don Johnson) is the main obstacle. A hellish journey through the uncharted depths of the US penal system, Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a brutal, uncompromising thriller that’s long and languid at times, but is compelling to watch. Vaughn has never been better than he is he, world-weary, but protective of his family, and fully aware that he’s on a suicide mission with a cost that’s hard to contemplate.

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