Mean Machine Review
And so the rise of footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones continues. Not content to scrape his way through Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels or perform adequately in Snatch, let alone have a token part in Gone In 60 Seconds or spy flick Swordfish, the former 'Welsh' captain now gets his own starring vehicle.
Mean Machine is a remake of the excellent 1974 Robert Aldrich film The Longest Yard starring Burt Reynolds, in which an American football match occurs between the prisoners and the guards, an event which grips the prison. The film was renamed The Mean Machine for overseas audiences lacking knowledge of American Football jargon. Twenty seven years later the Brits have remade the film for their own audience, changing the American Football aspect of the film into real football, and naming it simply Mean Machine. The executives producers are Guy Ritchie and co who also made Lock Stock and Snatch, and the director is Barry Skolnick, who has graduated from Reebok ads and Sky Sports trailers.
The plot of Mean Machine is relatively simple. Disgraced former England football captain Danny Meehan (Vinnie Jones) is imprisoned for three years for drunken assault. Once inside, Meehan is pressured by the prisoner governor (David Hemmings with dodgy eyebrows) to coach the guards football team. Meehan refuses, but agrees instead to coach a prisoner or 'cons' team to play the guards in a so-called 'friendly'. The usual prison and football training episodes ensue, with Meehan realising that his match-fixing professional days are coming back to haunt him, as both the governor and prisoner crime lords are piling the pressure for Meehan to throw the match.
Essentially, Mean Machine is Lock Stock meets Porridge with a heavy dose of Escape To Victory thrown in for good measure. You know what you are going to get, and this is the usual Guy Ritchie-esque witty thugs with the usual prison stock of stories and the usual football clichés. Surprisingly, the film works as an enjoyable flick because it knows its limitations and doesn't venture out of its depth. Many actors reappear from the Guy Ritchie universe, such as Jones himself, Jason Flemyng, Vas Blackwood, Robbie Gee and in particular Jason Statham who provides an excellent turn as complete psycho goalie The Monk. What about Jones' performance? The boy does enough to carry the film, and that is certain, but one cannot help but feel that Vinnie Jones will always be a limited actor confined to playing either hooligans or footballers.
It's ironic that director Skolnick cut his teeth on Reebok ads, as the film feels like a feature length Umbro advertisement, with the brand's diamond logo being plastered everywhere. The soundtrack for the film isn't as memorable as you'd expect for this type of film, and some of the tracks featured are highly derivative of other more notable efforts. Being a prison film renders Mean Machine overtly macho in places, and there are times when even the comic book aesthetic of the film becomes too grim too take. Despite all of this, Mean Machine certainly possesses appeal for any football/gangster fan that requires a decent night's entertainment. It's slickly directed, funny in most parts and contains a good 'feelgood' factor at the conclusion. It isn't as good as The Longest Yard but remains faithful enough whilst being suitably different to stand on its own two feet. It will pick up a modest take in the UK and no doubt bomb completely in the US, but the filmmakers clearly don't care, as they have geared the film solely towards the British shores.