Friday, 7 August 2015

Mean Machine (2001)

One of Vinnie Jones early performances where the world had not yet tired of his gritty, cockney, tough guy act. Yet shockingly this movie isn't about Jones being an unstoppable tough guy, it kinda is him being a tough guy though, just not the dialog free tough guy he usually is. In this remake of US movie 'The Longest Yard' Jones plays the main role which does actually require some genuine acting on his part. Not a great deal of course, lets not get carried away here, but some emotion is required and displayed.

The plot is a simple one, Danny Meehan is a top football (soccer) player fallen from grace. Done for match fixing, then caught drink driving, followed by an assault on two police officers. In prison he makes friends and enemies as you would expect, but its the prison guards and warden who are the real problem unsurprisingly. So to fix this solution, Meehan manages to organise himself as a coach for the inmates, so they can have a match against the guards, because that's just what you do in these types of situations. The perfect way to defuse all hostilities amongst everyone, problem solved. I mean honesty...what could go wrong?

I think its pretty obvious not to expect a classy emotional drama here, this isn't award winning stuff. However, I do think its obvious to expect every single tiny prison cliche in the prison movie book. For starters Jones is pretty much playing himself here, when he played professional footie he was of course the tough nut (the Brit footie fans will be well aware of this), and here he plays a tough nut footballer, with a slice of emotion, but essentially its just Vinnie Jones. The prison is your standard British board and lodgings, typically looks a bit old school, almost like going to a boarding school of sorts, not that I know about that. The guards are of course a mean, abusive bunch, the gov is corrupt, and you have the stereotypical array of prisoners. The happy-go-lucky guy, the rasta type guy, the nut job, the psycho, the fat Middle Eastern guy, the wise old Irishman, and the head honcho with his personal enforcers. Needless to say its kinda obvious who does what, who says what, who gets beaten, who gets done in and what happens every step of the way.

The cast are the shining light here though, its like putting a Guy Ritchie flick, a Matthew Vaughn flick and a Nick Love flick in a blender, and this is the result. You have virtually everyone from British comedy, film and drama here, Jason Statham (with more hair!), Danny Dyer, Ralph Brown, Vas Blackwood, Robbie Gee, Geoff Bell, Jason Flemyng and Omid Djalili. You're literately only missing Tamer Hassan, Dexter Fletcher, Frank Harper and Alan Ford for a full house. I don't even have to explain the characters they play, you can pretty much guess, Geof Bell is obviously a nasty guard, Brown is the head warden and the rest are a colourful collection of cockney inmates (what else).

Its the films mood that swings from one extreme to the other and confuses you. Naturally the film isn't a serious drama, but it does have moments of realism that aren't anything to laugh at, nothing horrific or gory, but emotional and at times slightly cold. Again this does tie in with other Brit flicks by the directors I've mentioned, the movie has that edgy, twitchy side to it where you know anything could happen and it could be nasty. Yet at the same time its almost like a farce or spoof at times, with slapstick comedy, some characters are mischievous buffoons. Take Statham's supposed maniac character, he looks the part and for most of the movie you think he will do something violent, but he ends up being part of the comedic relief. On the other hand, one inmate character called Nitro clearly starts off as a bit of comedic relief, but towards the end he becomes a scary, dangerous and intense character. This guy seemed like he belonged in a Daniel Day-Lewis drama.

A definite rollercoaster for your emotions which kinda works at times, ultimately feels very British (duh) and also kinda cheap looking. Nothing special to offer, nothing really new, but it does fit snugly into that now well known British cockney geezer flick genre, made famous by Guy Ritchie. So if you like that kinda thing then I'm sure you'll get a kick outta this (pun intended). It just about does enough to keep engaged...mainly to see Jones acting skills, and maybe the odd cameo by the odd ex-footie players. Bizarrely the director actually tries to portray Jones as some sort of super skilled ex-footie star in this movie, he does realise actual British football fans will probably watch this right?


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