England’s ex soccer captain Danny Meehan (Vinnie Jones) is jailed for drunken assault of a police officer after he is banned for illegal match fixing. The jail Governor (David Hemmings) pulls strings to get Danny assigned to his prison: he has invested heavily in the prison guards’ semi-professional soccer team and is keen for Danny to train them in order that they might win the Prison Guards Soccer Cup – on which he will heavily punt. But the guards’ own coach, Mr Burton (Ralph Brown) does everything in his power to dissuade Danny. In a pre-season warm-up, Danny proposes to train a team of cons to play against the guards to which The Governor agrees, believing the unfit, unpredictable convicts will be no match for his disciplined guards.
Review by Louise Keller:
As one of a very small minority for whom Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels made little positive impact, I was surprised how much I enjoyed Mean Machine. An offbeat comedy combining graphic violence with quirky humour, Mean Machine is a rousing prison soccer movie with plenty of heart. A remake of Burt Reynolds’ 1974 The Longest Yard, this is an uplifting story about the underdog, and although none of the characters are all good or all bad, we are in the company of pretty tough nuts: both the crims and the guards are severely flawed individuals. But there’s a certain purity in restoring spirit and self esteem to prisoners who have had it all thrashed out of them, and by the time we are on the soccer field for the match of all matches, there is no stopping the elation and absolute feel-good nature the film exhibits. I’m no soccer fan, but I was as excited as if I were, when revenge looks possible on the field. Broodingly charismatic Vinnie Jones carries the film comfortably and while the plot may be predictable, it is well executed and very enjoyable. It is surprising that such unattractive characters can be so endearing: credit to an adept script and excellent performances from all the players, who all needed to be soccer proficient. Jason Statham’s psychotic, martial arts obsessed Monk is a wonderfully conceived character, and the way his fantasy goal defence scenes are shot in black and white with manic music pounding relentlessly, is both innovative and funny. A super cast includes David Kelly (how can we forget his performance in Waking Ned Devine) and a portly, mature David Hemmings as the despicable prison Governor. The 23 tips for dirty play on the field are a lot of fun, and the tongue-in-cheek humour is well balanced with serious violence. There’s plenty of language and a few hard-to-watch scenes, but all in all, Mean Machine is a gritty, tough and funny entertainment that could easily become a cult classic. Who says that gritty, tough and funny movies are just for guys?
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This remake of the 1974 original (with Burt Reynolds) has it all – except the times have changed and sensibilities make some of the shenanigans hard to believe. But if you suspend your analysis for a bit, or maybe allow for the fact that it all takes place in England where things haven’t caught up with the politically over-correct West of the US and Australia, you will have fun behind bars with this rollick. Certainly prisoners, prison wardens and football fans will. The unoriginal but workable plot is massaged for all its possibilities, and there is enough dramatic weight to make the comedy feel as though it springs from natural sources. It doesn’t of course, but the manipulation is forgivable, considering how deftly it’s done. Fruity performances from the likes of David Hemmings as the prison Governor add a touch of pantomime to the proceedings, but when the action gets going on the footy field, all bets are off and the game’s the thing. It’s here that we get the payoffs. The comedy is as brutal as the footy, and the adrenaline flows as fast as the action. A boy’s only film? Don’t be so sure…see what Louise says!
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MEAN MACHINE (M)
CAST: CAST: Vinnie Jones, David Kelly, David Hemmings, Ralph Brown, Vas Blackwood
PRODUCER: Matthew Vaughn
DIRECTOR: Barry Skolnick
SCRIPT: Chris Baker, Andy Day (original screenplay by Tracy Keenan Wynn)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alex Barber
EDITOR: Eddie Hamilton, Dayn Williams
MUSIC: John Murphy
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Russell De Rosario
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 9, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
VIDEO RELEASE: October 18, 2002
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