By now it’s become quite clear that writer/director S. Craig Zahler enjoys torturing his protagonists. In Bone Tomahawk, a cripple and a sheriff face against a horde of satanic cannibals, in what remains one of the most entertaining and brutal Westerns in years. That dynamic carries on in Brawl in Cell Block 99, in which Bradley (Vince Vaughn) goes through a series of spectacularly lousy events, each one seemingly more grueling than the last.
It gets so bad for the poor guy that at one point I stopped having any fun. What else does Zahler have up his sleeve for Bradley to endure? Luckily for us, or at least for the patient viewer, the answer is carnage. Lots and lots of carnage. But the violence is not there purely to shock; the fist fights, broken noses, dislocated backs, possess a sense of 70s cultish ridiculousness. There are plenty of laughs to be had in between, and during, the bloodshed.