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MEAN MACHINE

Vinnie Jones, former hard guy for the Wimbledon football club and also known as the square-chinned bad-ass of Guy Ritchie’s London gangster universe, takes on the more apropos role of square-chinned down-and-out soccer player Danny "Mean Machine" Meehan in this remake of Robert Aldrich’s 1974 American cult-classic The Longest Yard, which trades American football for the Old World kind as Meehan is forced to coach a squad of talentless murderers and thieves. There’s money on the line, but the pot is all the sweeter because the match is between the cons and the hated guards.

Think Shawshank Redemption meets Bad News Bears, all shaped by producer Ritchie’s glibly hip style. Mean Machine is the kind of trifling sports comedy that dawdles on the way to the big game, but once you’re there, you’re a fan. First-time director Barry Skolnick has a rough go getting tired caricatures to click, like Doc (David Kelly), the oldest inmate with a penchant for dispensing cell-block wisdom, or the warden with a gambling problem. Yet once the lads get on the pitch and the slapstick ensues, it’s a bonny time.

BY JONATHAN STERN

Issue Date: February 28 - March 7, 2002
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