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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.95%
Worth A Look: 6.98%
Average: 2.33%
Pretty Bad60.47%
Total Crap: 16.28%

5 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Mean Machine
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by Andrew Howe

"Give this film a red card."
2 stars

It’s a testament to the success of a certain ex-footballer’s unlikely transition to acting that Mean Machine is destined to be referred to as “the new Vinnie Jones film”. Unfortunately, since Guy Ritchie’s nowhere to be seen we’re left with a memorable performance from Vinnie and a forgettable showing in every other aspect of its production, which is fine for the future career prospects of everyone’s favourite hard man but of precious little use to anyone looking for a reasonable return on the price of a ticket.

The film is a remake of the 1974 Burt Reynolds vehicle The Longest Yard, which revolved around a prison football match between a ragtag collection of cons and the warden’s elite outfit of guards. Mean Machine trades American football for English soccer, replaces Reynolds with Jones, and washes it down with lashings of violence, inhumanity and impenetrable slang, leaving us with a flick that’s tailor-made for English lads on their third pint of bitters.

The film opens with washed-up soccer player Danny (Jones, in a role that could hardly be described as a stretch) earning himself a couple of years at Her Majesty’s pleasure courtesy of a drunken rampage, and in short order he’s recruited by the warden (David Hemmings) to provide his boys with a “friendly” practice match. To the surprise of everyone except the viewer, he transforms a team of misfits into a finely tuned unit, while avoiding the gentle attentions of the head con and a contingent of guards who are intent on depleting Danny’s manpower by breaking the arms of any would-be player unlucky enough to look at them sideways.

The scriptwriters (Chris Baker and Andy Day) are hell-bent on denying us an investment in the game’s outcome, since every character bar Danny is either insufferably boring or a world-class lowlife. I accept that you’re unlikely to rub shoulders with the Marquis de Sade or Nelson Mandela in the Longmarsh recreation yard, but it’s difficult to root for a team that comprises the kind of individuals you’d sincerely hope will never be eligible for parole. The script attempts to elicit our support by portraying one of the guards as a sadistic thug, but the tactic is so obvious in its execution that it fails to raise an eyebrow (and while we’re on the subject, somebody should have told the director that it’s impossible to take Hemmings seriously when he’s lumbered with the most ludicrous pair of eyebrows this side of Ming the Merciless).

The road to the match isn’t particularly diverting – there’s only so much to do in a prison, so the film falls back on the well-worn standards of the genre (bathroom beatings, a despicable informer, and a heavy-handed speech by the resident arthritic con about how he’s never forgiven himself for his crimes). Even the climactic showdown is surprisingly lacklustre, but then soccer doesn’t lend itself to adrenalin-pumping action (bone-crunching tackles and length-of-the-field touchdowns being in short supply).

Jones does his best to save the film from abject failure, and to his credit he almost succeeds. Certain scenes reveal an unexpected vulnerability (Danny’s dawning realisation that he’s staring down the barrel of two years in stir is particularly well-realised), and when the gloves come off you don’t doubt his credentials for a second. The script also features the occasional flash of inspiration, most notably a brief insight into the twisted mind of the team’s goalkeeper (as played by Jason Statham, whose fast-talking persona might have enlivened the film immensely if he wasn’t playing a brooding lunatic with about six lines of dialogue).

The odd high point notwithstanding, it’s difficult to determine what the scriptwriters thought they were trying to achieve - the comedy falls flat, the characters are superficial, and anyone who knows the rules of the game could have told them a rousing finale wasn’t on the cards from the moment they put pen to paper. It’s worth noting that Baker and Day foisted the execrable Long Time Dead on an unsuspecting viewing public in the same year, making them no less a menace to society than the film’s characters, and I can only hope their deplorable track record sees them marked down for a dose of cruel and unusual punishment.

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originally posted: 03/30/02 12:38:00
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User Comments

4/17/09 Kos I'm from America, and I thought it was pretty good. Monk is hilarious. 4 stars
1/17/09 Shaun Wallner This movie stinks!! 2 stars
10/08/05 Rosa Fleur Totally not worth the bother! Na your not getting a good rating from me! 1 stars
6/08/05 jack diamond black. very funny. 5 stars
5/22/05 nishant pratap BLOODY GREAT MOVIE 5 stars
3/20/04 Jack-pyschO-Lantern Monk RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/28/04 George Great Movie.....Gotta Love the Monk!!!! 5 stars
11/14/03 B. Frsh Cool man...of course if you'e American (like the reviewer here) you'll hateit :) 4 stars
11/08/02 SPYDER Come on you gotta love MONK!!!! 5 stars
10/30/02 Patrick hilarious...especially if you like soccer...yanks will probably hate it. 5 stars
9/04/02 Joe Zappa A disappointing waste of Ritchie, Jones, Flemyng, & Statham's talents. 2 stars
8/04/02 daniboy really good 4 stars
2/25/02 Neil Austin An ok remake of a crappy film. 3 stars
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  22-Feb-2002 (R)



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