Crime, punishment, soccer

Posted: March 15, 2002

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.)

Of course, there's a soccer match - a deftly shot and edited competition between the prisoners, led by Jones, and the guards. Bodies fly, fall and crash down the field in an exhilarating finish to this testosterone-fueled lark.

Mean Machine ** 1/2 (Out of four stars)

Written by Chris Baker and Andy Day, directed by Barry Skolnick. With Vinnie Jones, David Hemmings and Jason Statham.

Running time: 1 hour, 39 mins.

Parent's guide: R (violence, profanity)

Playing at: Ritz Five

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|