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Mean Machine (2001)

Not your usual suspects

Directed by:

Barry Skolnick

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom, United States

Guy Ritchie used Vinnie Jones in ‘Lock, Stock, etc’, ‘Snatch’ and now, as producer, he’s given him his first proper starring role in ‘Mean Machine’. So it’s fair to say he sees something in the sometimes-Welsh football hardman’s attempts at thespianism. Either that or the Vinster’s got some embarrassing snaps of Guy’s missus and he’s holding him to ransom over them. Then again, we’ve all seen those pics already, so it can’t be that.

In this remake of 1974’s ‘The Longest Yard’, the V-Man plays Danny “Mean Machine” Meehan, the one-time England football captain now serving time for drunken assault on a couple of policemen. The film’s already got one-up on the original version (which had Burt Reynolds in the lead), thanks to its decision to replace American football with a proper sport. But it does little else to alter the formula of a picture which was fairly well-received Stateside, if relatively unknown on these shores.

The plot’s about as predictable as it gets, with Meehan agreeing to coach and captain a cons’ select against the semi-crooked prison guards. Various inner-wranglings, including the usual array of attempts at match-fixing, shower-room punch-ups and comedy training sessions all find their way into the proceedings before the requisite end-of-film showdown.

The boy Vinnie pulls off his part well – it’s difficult to think of anyone else so perfectly suited to the role. In fact it’s a decent ensemble all-round, with Kit-Kat man Jason Statham stealing his moments as the gruff-voiced Glaswegian goalie who word has it “could have turned pro, before he turned mad.” Others you might recognise from various other Brit productions include Danny ‘Human Traffic’ Dyer, David ‘Waking Ned’ Kelly and Robbie ‘Desmonds’ Gee.

There’s a bit of fairly graphic violence here and there, but the bulk of it’s done purely for comedy – some of which works and some of which doesn’t. This isn’t going to win any awards for originality, and as is generally the case with football films the match scenes just don’t look right (you can tell they’re all acting, not playing). But it’s enjoyable enough, and football fans in particular will get a few laughs out of it. Admittedly those laughs aren’t always produced in the right places, but it’s better than nothing.

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It's Got: A prison Governor with a nasty betting habit and even nastier eyebrows.

It Needs: The cons team to wear strips with arrows on them. Don’t prisoners ever wear stuff like that any more?

DVD Extras None DVD Extras Rating: 0/10

Summary

Not a classic but, as Burt Reynolds remakes go, it could be much worse – we could have Vinnie in a new ‘Smokey and the Bandit’.

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