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 Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
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"X marks the spot"

United States

Posted - 24/12/2017 :  10:40:45  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
When the hell did Vince Vaughn become so compelling???

If you enjoyed Die Hard (1988), if you dug Fist of Fury (1972) or Enter the Dragon (1973), if you liked John Woo's The Killer (1989) and if you loved Sling Blade (1996), then this is the film to see before you get caught up in some crime-deal gone wrong and end up on death row watching fucking cartoons for the rest of your life, begging for the sharp sting of death under the rusted lid of a metal cap as 50,000 volts jolt through your rapidly transforming corpse. No: there's no electric chair in this film; there's no crime noir 1930's dialogue; and I am well aware that earlier sentence is too long, so fuck you. Go get some popcorn.

I stopped taking Vince Vaughn seriously after Swingers (1996). He was hilarious to watch, but he became a typecast smartass always playing wisecracking Vince Vaughn by another name. In Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017), Vaughn does something amazing: remember when you first learned that Billy Bob Thornton actually was NOT mentally-challenged (you know: a retard? Then he became a typecast wiseass, la Bad Santa (2003) [hilarious movie, by the way]?); remember when you found out that Ed Norton wasn't a stuttering priest-abused youth (then he went on to do some even more amazing stuff)? Vaughn takes us in the other direction, sloughing off the wiseass persona and taking us into the pure sociopathology of Bradley (do not call him "Brad"), the main character, a struggling former criminal drawn back into life as a drug courier to save himself and his marriage.

Vaughn's quite modern-day character has shades of "Michael Kolhaas" (an 18th century novella that served as the basis for the wholly transformed E.L. Doctorow adaptation Ragtime (1981)), an entertainingly subdued sense of John McClane (Die Hard (1988)) and a Tarentinoesque badassery without beating you over the head with a statement like "I'm Tarentinoesque!" (unlike Kill Bill (2003), which is about as blatant and self-consciously Tarentinoesque as it gets). "Brawl" kick-starts, sputters for a few minutes, revs and then never looks back.

I remember feeling a tad empty at the end of Training Day (2001), when I came to the realization that the movie was going to end the way it did (but then again, I used up my whole tank loving the rest of the movie, so I can't complain); "Brawl" lets you make that discovery about the right plot point at the right time with plenty enough left to give you a very satisfying boot in the ass, across the shins, and to the chops. Don Johnson is, well, drawly Don Johnson, and director Craig Zahler uses him just enough to give a zesty flavor (more like a tomato aioli for your fries than a bowl of ketchup), Jennifer Carpenter plays it thin and straight, and Udo Kier is pure ice. Go see this now. Nope: I got nothing clever to end this with.

Oh: badassery is a word, so fuck you.
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