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MEAN MACHINE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Vinnie Jones, David Kelly, David Hemmings, Vas Blackwood, Jason Flemyng, Danny Dyer, Jason Statham
Director: Barry Skolnick
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: None
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: July 16, 2002

“It’s getting tough out there, Bob.”

“You can say that again, Bob.”

“It’s getting tough out there, Bob.”

“Never mind, Bob.”

Film ***

Could the gridiron brutality displayed in Burt Reynolds’ prison football comedy The Longest Yard ever be translated to modern day Britain with a soccer ball? Yes it can, and the result, Mean Machine, is a pure cheerful mixture of comedy and brutal violence, adding up to a fun viewing.

The makers of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and last year’s brilliant Snatch have created another gleeful mix of sharp humor and not too subtle brutality, and created a perfect star vehicle for the towering presence of Vinnie Jones, who delivered memorable performances in both Snatch and Lock Stock, as well as popping up in two American releases, Gone in 60 Seconds and Swordfish. Jones, who looks as if he can crush just about any mechanism with one of his hands, is renowned in his native England for soccer, where he played for the league in Wales. So it goes without saying that his role as Danny “the mean machine” Meehan fits him like a perfect glove. In his first lead role, Jones perfectly handles the dialogue like meat and potatoes, one at a time and chewed very carefully.

The deal: The prison governor (David Hemmings) has a gambling problem, and is crazy about football. He orders his new celebrity prisoner to coach the team. This does not sit well with the head guard, who coaches the guards' team, but what can he say? Danny doesn't much want to enter the coaching profession, but the governor makes him a threat he can't ignore.

The most enjoyable passages are some of the most predictable, recycled out of countless other movies where a leader has to pick his men. Danny finds himself with the prison contraband retailer, Massive (Vas Blackwood), as his right-hand man, and a violent, feared con named Monk (Jason Statham) as his star player. He gets a lot of valuable prison lore and advice from the ancient convict Doc (David Kelly).

All leads up to the big match, which of course involves hard play and dirty tricks, and dovetails neatly with the governor's gambling problem. Guy Ritchie, who started out as such an innovator in Snatch seems to have headed directly for reliable generic conventions as a producer. But they are reliable, and have become conventions for a reason: They work. Mean Machine is what it is, and very nicely, too.

Video ****

Paramount delivers a very striking video transfer for a visually striking movie. Like Snatch, much of the power of Mean Machine lies within its visual style, which is key in certain pivotal scenes like the final soccer battle, with necessary quick camera cuts, etc. With this applied, Paramount has acquired a near perfect video transfer, complete with sharpness and alive with vibrant colors, adding up to a grand presentation.

Audio ***1/2

A nicely tuned 5.1 audio mix is served triumphantly for this sharp sounding movie that carries with it an array of striking music cuts, mostly modern techno with some old school pop here and there. Along with sharp delivery of dialogue, the audio job on Mean Machine is a much furious one, in the good sense.

Features *

Basically deprived of any extras, but this release gets a plus simply for offering both the domestic theatrical version, as well as the original version from the U.K.

Summary:

Mean Machine works much in the same vein as Snatch and Lock Stock, and fans of those movies should not find it a hard time to enjoy this fun romp of a film.