First off, this film is violent...and I mean, REALLY violent. Bone Tomahawk is a great companion piece to this film. It is very similar in the set up and the pay off is much the same but prolonged for this film. The film takes a good long while to kick off but when it does, it turns into one of the fastest paced action thrillers I've seen in a long time. It is almost as if it is two different films. The first part of the film is very grounded drama with crime elements within it. Then after Udo Kier's character leaves, it is like a storm erupts. This storm brings brutal violence, extreme gore and Vince Vaughn's impressive fighting skills and puts them on display for everyone to see in its uncensored glory. This film is amazing by every stretch of the imagination. It takes it's time with the story and immerses us within this world that Zahler carefully crafts with his script, production design and actors. We slowly become a part of this world which bodes well because I can't imagine this world going over well with someone just dropped into it. To quicken the pace would be to cheapen the work here. I'm a huge proponent of a lean running time but I was able to overlook the seemingly bloated 132 minute run time because everything was so damn well done, it didn't feel long at all. Furthermore, Zahler's love of one take fight scenes really shines here and it really gets the blood pumping. Seeing a quick edited action sequence up against something like this? There is no comparison and I wouldn't be surprised if more action directors take a page out of Zahler's vision.
Overall, Brawl in Cell Block 99 could have me going on for days upon days on how much I enjoyed it. It is a perfect balance between realism and pulp fiction, drama and brutality, production design and overall direction. It feels like a better movie than it will probably get credit for and showcases Vince Vaughn in a career changing performance that is bound to leave your jaw on the floor with how amazing he is in both a dramatic and physical sense. I can't recommend this movie enough especially if you're a fan of action films. It is far and away one of the best films I've seen this year.