MEAN MACHINE Air Jordan
Many people have fond memories of the 1974 prison football movie THE LONGEST YARD. Written by Albert S. Ruddy and Tracy Keenan Wynn and directed by Robert Aldrich, YARD concerns a onetime gridiron hero (Burt Reynolds) who finds himself doing time in a jail where the warden is a sports fanatic who wants the expro to coach a team of convicts to play against the guards. The film managed to be pretty funny while generating a bit of real tension as well. MEAN MACHINE transplants the premise fair and square the credits acknowledge the new movie is based on YARD to presentday England. The game is still called "football" by its British practitioners (and the film's characters) although, in one more example of two Air Jordan 11 72 10 nations divided by a common language, it's what Americans think of as "soccer." Ontheskids former pro Danny Meehan (Vinnie Jones, a reallife exsoccer star) gets himself arrested on a wide range of minor charges that add up to a sentence of several years. He's recognized by his fellow inmates, most of whom are disgusted with him for taking a dive at the height of his career. The warden (David Hemmings), however, is positively delirious to have a pro in his care, as he's poured a fortune into his guards' football squad. Danny sensibly refuses to coach the guards (especially as the current coach/head guard makes threatening noises at the prospect), but winds up offering to head up a prisoners' team instead, thereby giving the guards the possibility of a practice game with quasiworthy opponents. The catch, of course, is that any contest between guards and inmates is inherently loaded.
MEAN MACHINE has the scruffy good cheer of a decent lowbudget British crime comedy. The screenplay by Charlie Fletcher, Chris Baker and Andy Day has a lot of droll moments and snappy dialogue. Moreover, we genuinely do like the characters who are meant to be appealing, but there's a schematic feel here that director Barry Skolnick plays into rather than disguises.
MACHINE lacks the whirling plot elements of LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (which also starred Jones) and, more surprisingly, any sense of real danger. We intellectually know that these people are dangerous, and in fact characters do get killed, but we never really work up a sweat of apprehension about the bind Danny is in. Skolnick creates a mood that is playful but also oddly earnest we're so aware that Danny will learn a lesson and other consequences seem otherwise so abstract (prisoner pride, the nasty warden's financial situation) that MACHINE winds up feeling more like an especially boisterous high school sports comedy/drama than something set in an environment where the stakes can be life and death.
Jones is solid and likable as Danny, as well as being quite impressive when he's Air Jordan 11 72-10 out on the field. Vas Blackwood is ingratiating in what is a rather stock role as Danny's wisecracking sidekick and David Kelly is wellsuited to his role as the prison's elder statesman, even though the part is almost identical to his turn in GREENFINGERS. Jason Statham is good as the jail's resident maniac, although the character is never allowed to live up to the menace of his reputation.
MEAN http://www.airjordanmvp.com MACHINE may play very differently to those who are aficionados of the sport at its center. For the rest of us, it's not compelling, but it's diverting. Ruddy and Tracy Keenan Wynn.