Mean Machine


          It was only a matter of time, I suppose, before filmmakers started
  to plunder the 1970s for films to remake. At least these contemporary
  movie makers are not yet attempting to redo classics (like
TAXI DRIVER
  or THE LAST PICTURE SHOW), instead making an effort by tackling, of
  all things, action films. Hot on the heels of the misfired redo of
ROLLERBALL
  
 comes MEAN MACHINE, a British adaptation of the 1974 Burt Reynolds
  vehicle
THE LONGEST YARD. While that may not be a film that would
  top a cineaste's wish list for updating, first-time director Barry Skolnick
  and screenwriters Charlie Fletcher, Chris Baker and Andy Day have done
  a nice job of tailoring
MEAN MACHINE as a star vehicle for Vinnie Jones.
  Just as the original played off Reynolds' football prowess, this remake
  trades on Jones' career as a soccer player.

          The film opens with a funny commercial parody of the James Bond
  films with soccer star Danny Meehan (Jones) hawking a brand of footwear.
  Despite his fame, there's a cloud over him; Meehan was thought to have
  thrown an important match and the resultant career and life down turns
  led Meehan to seek solace in drinking and driving his fancy sportscar at
  top speeds. While being arrested for speeding and driving under the
  influence, Meehan attacks the arresting officers and finds himself
  sentenced to prison.

          His reputation has preceded him, so that the guards, led by
  Burton (Ralph Brown), are less than impressed, and the inmates are
  divided between fawning admiration and contempt. The warden (David
  Hemmings) had arranged for Meehan to be jailed at his prison in the
  hopes that Meehan would coach the guards' soccer team, but having
  been warned off accepting the gig by the present coach (Ralph Burton),
  the athlete proposes a skirmish between a team of inmates of his
  choosing and the guards.

          Having debuted in
LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS,
  Jones had already demonstrated his terrific screen presence. While it
  clearly isn't much of stretch for him to play a professional sportsman,
  he acquits himself nicely. As the troubled, somewhat porcine warden
  (who has a gambling problem), Hemmings is perfectly cast. There's         
  also nice work from Jason Statham as a psychotic killer drafted into
  playing goaltender, Sally Phillips as the warden's secretary, Vas
  Blackwood as the inmate team's manager and Danny Dyer as a
  puppyish prisoner whose admiration of Meehan knows no bounds.
  Jason Flemyng and Jake Abraham are hysterical as Bob and Bob,
  offering running commentary on the game. The one seeming misfire
  is David Kelly, who appears to be reprising his old codger turn
  from
GREENFINGERS, another prison-set comedy-drama.

          Director Skolnick has clearly studied the oeuvre of Guy Ritchie
  (who served as an executive producer) and adopted the same
  razzmatazz style that is Ritchie's trademark: a rock 'n' roll soundtrack
  with numerous camera tricks including quick edits, slow-motion and
  slangy dialogue. It's not a bad choice, but there's a certain pre-fab feel.
    MEAN MACHINE doesn't exactly surpass the THE LONGEST YARD but
  on its own it manages to score a few points.


                       
Rating:                    B-
                       
MPAA Rating:          R for language and some violence
                       
Running time:          99 mins.
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.