Brawl in Cell Block 99 Vince Vaughn

Brutally gripping.

So often cast as a smarmy, fast-talking charmer, Vince Vaughn is nearly unrecognisable as the shaven-headed, tattoo-sporting protagonist of the brutally gripping prison drama Brawl in Cell Block 99 from writer-director S Craig Zahler, maker of the ferocious horror western Bone Tomahawk.

There’s more eye-watering violence in store here, as Vaughn’s stoical working stiff turned convict goes through a series of hellish ordeals to protect his heavily pregnant wife (Jennifer Carpenter). The film’s slow-burn build-up means it’s quite some time before Vaughn’s anti-hero comes out swinging. But when he does you may find yourself ducking for cover.

This is the kind of pulp fiction where the baddies really do get beaten to a pulp. Vaughn is terrific, and terrifically convincing, as the film’s surprisingly principled brawler, and there’s a nicely sleazy turn from Don Johnson as a corrupt, cigarillo-chewing prison warden and a typically creepy turn from Udo Kier as a cartel fixer.

Certificate 18. Runtime 132 mins. Director S Craig Zahler

Brawl in Cell Block 99 available on DVD & Digital from Universal Pictures.