You’ve never seen Vince Vaughn like this before. Even if you were among the handful who watched True Detective Season 2, nothing could prepare you for this Vaughn: Brutal, hulking, and capable of insane violence. He’s always been somewhat intimidating, a factor that’s amplified to 11 in Brawl in Cell Block 99, the new film from Bone Tomahawk writer / director S. Craig Zahler. I spoke with both men a few hours after watching their film at an 8 AM press screening, which was one hell of a way to wake up.
The current cinematic trend toward “explainer culture” — the need to dissect art to discern its true meaning and the demand for directors to explain their creative intentions — is counterintuitive to the enjoyment of art. As David Lynch once said, “The film is the thing.” The movie is the conversation; the only explanation that really matters is your own. And yet, walking out of Brawl in Cell Block 99, it’s almost impossible to not wonder about writer and director S. Craig Zahler’s intentions. Is this a genuine exploitation film, or is it merely exploitative? And if it’s the former, what place do those films have and what purpose do they serve in 2017?