Brawl in Cell Block 99

If you go into a movie with minimal knowlege, and the experience is subpar because it did not fit the genre you expected, is that your own fault for not doing your homework or the movie's fault for not making itself more clear? That's the philosophical conundrum I had after Brawl in Cell Block 99. I knew that Vince Vaughn was leaving his comedic persona behind and taking on a more dramatic and intense role. The buzz on Stardust was that it was very intense indeed. What I failed to pick up on was that it was apparently meant to be more grindhouse than serious drama, at least according to the Rotten Tomatoes summarized review. That's a very crucial piece of information that woulda changed my perception completely.

Vaughn plays a southern tough guy who turns to drug running to provide for his wife and unborn child. Of course, as tends to happen to most drug runners, he soon finds himself in prison. Not long after landing in a min security prison, an employee of his very upset employer threatens his family if he doesn't get himself into max security prison and kill an inmate. So Vaughn gets violent.

Here's why the grindhouse detail was crucial. I had such a hard time getting into the movie because it was so incredibly unbelivable. The specific threat against his wife was intense. The max security prison would violate so many federal laws. I also doubted the chemistry between Vaughn and Jennifer Carpenter, but that wouldn't have been helped. I just couldn't convince myself the scenario was plausible enough to get behind it. Also, the violence is incredibly graphic. Normally, I'm okay with that. And in a Grindhouse context, I'd absolutely be okay with that. But still thinking it was serious drama, it seemed way excessive.

I think this is how I missed that point. The movie took way too long (nearly an hour) in the set up to get Vaughn to prison. And much of that set up did seem like taking-itself-way-too-seriously drama. I'd have expected a grindhouse movie to cut right to the action. Vince Vaughn destroying a car out of anger with his bare hands does not count. That seemed more like dramatic overacting.

Lemme cut him a break. Vaughn was actually pretty good. If you only know him as a Frat Pack actor, he's unrecognizable. He's also a pretty big guy, so casting him as a toughened roughneck was genius. He looked the part and fit it quite well. It's just the movie wasn't clear to me on its intentions, and I misinterpreted everything. Had I known what I was watching, I prolly woulda loved it and given it a higher score. Learn from my mistakes!

Brawl in Cell Block 99 – \m/ \m/ \n

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