ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Vince Vaughn and Immorally Moral Brawl in Cell Block 99

Updated on December 20, 2020

When life options seem limited, and circumstances present few options, even the moral may become immoral. Good people reluctantly choose to take a turn for the bad, hoping to serve a higher purpose. Vince Vaughn's portrayal of Bradley Thomas, the anti-hero of the prison drama Brawl in Cell Block 99, reveals a mostly decent man who does very indecent things. While the audience feels for his plight and might sympathize and empathize with him in equal parts, Bradley Thomas remains an immoral man deserving of his fate. Nothing he does removes the specter of this truth from his actions.

The story starts with a down-on-your-luck prelude.

After losing his job working as a mechanic, Bradley Thomas returns to his old career of being a drug mule. He has a wife and a soon-to-be-born child to care for. A drug currying job predictably goes terribly wrong. Ironically, Thomas' decision to help save police during a shootout with his partners leads to his arrest.

A detective notes how Thomas chooses to sacrifice himself to save the police officers and realizes he is, despite his career choice, a good and moral man. Thomas' morality won't allow him to cut a deal since he won't "rat" on his employer. The detective mentions how methamphetamines take a tremendous toll on addicts -- inferring Thomas contributes to the misery. Thomas continues to add to human suffering by not doing anything to stop his employer. So, Bradley Thomas comes off as a half-moral/half highly-immoral man. In the final analysis, he's an immoral man.

With no subtle irony, he pleads "nolo contendere" to the charges. The plea means "no contest" entails neither admitting guilt nor professing innocence. Nolo contendere acts as the perfect plea for someone who walks a tightrope between hero and villain and moral and immoral. Regardless, a nolo contendere plea is no different than a guilty plea. He receives a tough seven-year sentence.

The justice system pegs Bradley Thomas correctly. He's guilty, dangerous, and belongs inside a cellblock. Regardless of his circumstances, motivations, and underlying moral code, he deserves his sentence and all the misery that goes with it.

How many lived did he ruin with meth? How many people overdosed? Thomas ruined lives.

A Potboiler Revisitation of "Crime and Punishment"

"You just lost your minimum freedom." So says the Warden played by Don Johnson at a pivotal moment in the film.

Entering prison to serve out his punishment leads to a new phase in Bradley Thomas' life. A path to enlightenment, self-discovery, and renewal won't occur, though. The second act somewhat hints about a journey to enlightenment, but the narrative's direction quickly changes. The potboiler nature of Brawl in Cell Block 99 doesn't hide the course of the story: violence and fight scenes are coming. The brawls don't come at the expense of eliminating the main character's more profound psychological journey.

Like the main character Raskolnikov of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Bradley Thomas' bad deeds serve to do things for a greater good. Both Thomas and Raskolnikov's stories involve murder, although Thomas never premeditates any murders. His former employer blackmails the denizen of Cell Block 99 to commit one. A new crime, killing another criminal, becomes the duty necessary to save the life of his wife and unborn child.

The anti-hero nature of Thomas takes root as his new mission commences. Any audience member who feels a kinship with this struggling everyman steps into his metaphoric shoes. All those who dealt with life's adversities and was misunderstood -- as Thomas's violent actions and motivations are misunderstood -- cheer him on his painful journey. Thomas experiences great hardship to save his loved ones. He, himself, won't be escaping his plight once the mission ends. Thomas' lot on life, what remains of it, involves forever rotting in a prison cell.

Poor Choices and a Worse Life

Bradley Thomas receives sympathy from the viewer because he isn't purely evil and has become a victim out of a desire to do good. Regardless, compassion comes undeservedly. He chose to break the law and associate with a drug kingpin. Thomas doesn't lack intelligence. He should have known his decision to become a drug mule would lead to disaster. Willful blindness due to an inflated sense of the self had led him into his disastrous situation known as Brawl in Cellblock 99.

Bad decisions don't become good ones due to the noble motivations behind them. And what was the root of those noble motivations?

Thomas facilitated the movement of drugs through communities. For a profit, he aided the delivery of meth, cocaine, and heroin for personal gain. What comes from those personal profits? Ruined lives. Although his wife and unborn child are innocent victims, there are equally victims of both Thomas's actions and a criminal syndicate.

A cautionary tale lurks amidst the potboiler plot. Unfortunately, the cautions would veer towards someone with the mindset of Bradley Thomas. Don't expect such a character to listen to any warnings. The decision to head down a path of crime and punishment emerges as the unavoidable forgone choice for this character.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)