A hearty hybrid of sports pic and prison flick - and a remake of 1974's The Longest Yard - Mean Machine is a likably energetic star vehicle for English sports god Vinnie Jones. The tall, thuggishly handsome athlete-turned-thespian made his screen bow in the London gangster romp Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and followed that with another Guy Ritchie-directed gangland laffer, Snatch.
In Mean Machine, Jones - playing a tarnished soccer star who's sent to jail for throwing a game, and then throwing some cops around - has the weight of the film on his (broad) shoulders. This is not necessarily a good thing - Jones' emotive range moves from bared-teeth sneer to bared-teeth grin, but then director Barry Skolnick isn't aiming for high art here. The picture moves along efficiently through the genre conventions. These include Jones' Danny Meehan having to withstand brutal prison guards, cope with a corrupt, gambling-addicted warden (David Hemmings, sporting a set of impressive winged eyebrows), and negotiating the nasty social strata of the behind-bars crowd. (Plus, learning the unique slanguage - terms like "dry snitching" and "square John" - spoken by the cons.)