Pop Culture #681

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Pop Culture #681

Trying to watch movies in 2018 can be a tricky business. Gone are the days when if you missed something at the cinema, you went straight to the video store; now with multiple streaming options the first question to ask when someone tells you they saw a great movie is “how”?
The other problem is that not all viewing options are created equal, especially when it comes to price – even cinema prices can vary widely, as those who’ve been enjoying the $10 movie tickets thanks to Geelong’s seemingly never-ending cinema price war can tell you. If a movie is on in cinemas, that’s $10 (or usually, a fair bit more); if a movie has gone direct to a streaming service, that might be $10 for a month covering a whole range of options. And if it’s gone direct to DVD, that’s different again. While renting isn’t exactly dead, for most people their closest rental option is one of those kiosks found in shopping malls and supermarkets, and while they’re both cheap and convenient, they don’t often offer a great deal in the way of range.
So basically, if a movie you want to see has gone direct to DVD, often your best option is to purchase it outright, which can feel like a bit of a gamble when you’re paying more than a movie ticket for the privilege of watching something in your own home. Which is a very long way of saying that Brawl in Cell Block 99 is out now on DVD and it’s totally worth every cent.
It’s the story of auto mechanic Bradley (Vince Vaughan) who starts out by losing his job, goes home to find his wife Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter) sitting in her car, where she confesses she’s having an affair. Bradley orders her inside, then proceeds to literally and astonishingly tear her car apart with his bare hands; if you were expecting one of Vaughan’s chuckle-heavy comedy performances this is the point where you might realise you’ve made a big mistake. The important thing to know about Bradley is that he’s a worker: he works to save his marriage, he works hard at his new job as a drug courier, and when he’s arrested, locked up, and told if he doesn’t get into a maximum security prison and murder an inmate there then the now-pregnant Lauren is going to suffer, well… he just puts his head down and gets back to work.
If you saw writer-director S. Craig Zahler’s previous film Bone Tomahawk (which also did not make it into Australian cinemas), then you have a rough idea of just how remorseless and often astoundingly violent this salute to grindhouse exploitation can get. It’s not just a whole bunch of violence though; there’s some decent character work going on here too in-between the shocking brutal fights, and Vaughan grabs onto his role with both hands. It’s not the kind of performance that’s going to win awards but he totally makes this film work, completely selling Bradley as both a guy with a cast iron spine and someone who’d really rather be doing anything but pummelling bad guys into pulp. It’s a great film; don’t let the fact you have to do more than just press a button to watch it hold you back.
Written by Anthony Morris