Mean Machine(18)

Review by Simon Bell

First-time director Barry Skolnick's remake of Robert Aldrich's cult classic American prison film "The Mean Machine" (known in the States as "The Longest Yard") supplants American football with soccer but otherwise sticks to the predictable premise.

Aldrich's Burt Reynolds-starring, anti-authoritarian satire on the Nixon Watergate scandal is here dumbed down to utter stupidity, battered along the way as it is by hoary cliché and a stodgy sceenplay that contains not one single surprise.

Yes, it seems producer Matthew Vaughn has found a formula that makes him enough lean green to bother trying his hand at anything original… This is Lock Stock goes Porridge without the wit or like-ability.

Vinnie Jones is disgraced ex-England footballer Danny Meehan who, having taken a bung (how topical) to throw a game, becomes a booze-addled national disgrace. An elbow in a cop's face later and he's behind bars dodging the showers.

There he meets The Governor and Chief Officer (David Hemmings and Ralph Brown), two prison stereotypes with all the de rigeur, weathered grimness and distrust of their charges. Challenged with managing a team of inmate misfits, Meehan must then convince his fellow cons that he's in it for the winning, not the taking part. (Jones himself proves he can turn a decent performance if required, but he evidently can't carry a whole movie.)

Meanwhile, Skolnick's decision to play the whole thing for laughs doesn't pay off. For a bit of authenticity, he recruited actors who could supposedly play the game. Hemmings, on the other hand, is quite obviously NOT a football man, but isn't given any assistance by a script that calls on him to hector those on field with "Get it up there!" and "Oh, referEEEEE!!" (One recalls Michael Caine's words of football wisdom in "Escape to Victory": "Pass the ball. Always pass the ball.")

Just when you thought you were in the clear, Mean Machine pops up to remind you, once again, that football and the movies go together like Vinnie's grip and Gazza's balls.

Let's hope Robert Duvall scores better with his soon-to-be-released Ally McCoist vehicle "A Shot at Glory".

They think it's all over. Unfortunately, one suspects, it isn't just yet.