REVIEW: Mean Machine (2001)

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2001, Paramount Classics/Ska Films/Ruddy Morgan Productions/Brad Grey Films

Director:
Barry Skolnick
Producers:
Matthew Vaughn
Writers:
Charlie Fletcher (screenplay)
Chris Baker (screenplay)
Andrew Day (screenplay)
Tracy Keenan Wynn (original screenplay, “The Longest Yard”)
Cinematography:
Alex Barber
Editing:
Eddie Hamilton
Dayn Williams

Cast:
Vinnie Jones (Danny Meehan)
David Kelly (Doc)
David Hemmings (Governor)
Ralph Brown (Captain Burton)
Vas Blackwood (Massive)
Robbie Gee (Eddie Trojan)
Geoff Bell (Ratchett)
John Forgeham (Charlie Sykes)
Danny Dyer (Billy the Limpet)
Jason Flemyng (Bob Likely)
Jason Statham (Monk)
Sally Phillips (Tracey)

Before Adam Sandler remade the prison football comedy The Longest Yard, the guys behing Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels re-made the film as a prison football (or soccer) comedy that is quite funny at times.

Danny Meehan is a top soccer star who gets in trouble for drunken driving. When he assaults two cops who want to take him in for the DUI, he is sentenced to three years in prison. From the beginning, it’s no pleasant ride as he butts heads with guard captain Burton. When the Governor asks Danny to help coach the guard’s soccer team, he refuses and just plans to serve his time. However, when the Governor proposes that Danny forms a team of prisoners to face the guards in a match, things go insane for the former star.

At first, Danny has a ragtag gang of prisoners. However, after earning the respect of Charlie Sykes, a reputable mobster, Danny comes close to getting his team together. He soon finds the perfect goalie in the Scottish prisoner Monk, an expert in martial arts. As the team soon comes together both on and off the field, a devastating tragedy brings the team closer as they prepare for the biggest game of their lives.

In 1974, The Longest Yard, the story of an ex-football star who forms a team of prisoners to play the semi-pro guards team in a game is such a fan favorite amongst film fans. While 31 years later, Adam Sandler led the Hollywood remake of that film, the remakes actually started with this British production, which takes advantage of the sport of football, or as the Americans call it, soccer.

In the Burt Reynolds role is Vinnie Jones, who like Reynolds, was a former soccer player known for a somewhat aggressive style. After working with Matthew Vaughn and Guy Ritchie with both Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, they were given the go-ahead to make a soccer version of The Longest Yard with full participation from Paramount, who made the original film. Jones may not seem the type to exactly lead a film, yet with his experience in the sport and honing his acting skills, he does quite well in the role.

There are a few notable changes between the original film and this remake. For one, the character of Caretaker comes in the form of Massive, played with comic relief at times by Vas Blackwood and Pops comes in the form of Doc, played by David Kelly. The British version of Knauer, Burton, may seem ruthless yet at the same time, he seems to be both intimidated and impressed with the progress Meehan gives throughout the film whereas Knauer seemed truly ruthless. What many might not know is that Jason Statham gives us a taste of martial arts one year before his breakout role of The Transporter as Scotsman Monk. He does a kata and during the training sequences, one can see him kicking a heavy bag but one would really have to look.

The soccer match is nicely shot with some hilarious commentary by prisoners played by Jason Flemyng and Perry Digweed. For those who have seen The Longest Yard and expect certain aspects seen in the original including a famous shot at a guard, it is there as well as some pretty inventive action courtesy of Statham in a comical kind of way, especially for a goalie.

Mean Machine is a worthy British remake of The Longest Yard. Vinnie Jones does pretty well and Jason Statham is funny at times as Monk. If you liked either or both versions of The Longest Yard, you will want to see this.

WFG RATING: A

DVD

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