New British film blends soccer with prison

Triumph over adversity is a theme played out many times within the realm of cinema. Unfortunately, films that centre themselves on the build up for that one event often suffer from certain traits that reduce the film to a mediocre status. Such is the case with Mean Machine.
From the school of Guy Ritchie filmmaking, this film is another British import that is produced by Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels) and whose director wants to be Guy Ritchie.
First time director Barry Skolnick adapts the Burt Reynolds film The Longest Yard and creates this aggressive dramatic comedy. Instead of using football as the sport the American version relied on, the sport of choice is English football – or as many know it, soccer.
The discerning viewer who has familiarized himself with previous Ritchie films will notice the re-casting of characters that have appeared in his two prior films. That is not to say that this film will be a breakout hit for Director Skolnick, but instead proves to be a mediocre film that will be remembered as good but not great.
The film will be remembered as somewhat of a mixed prison-soccer film and may seem quite antiquated at times with its’ formulaic triumph over all attitude. Vinnie Jones (Guy Ritchie films, Swordfish), who was once an English soccer player, stars as Danny Meehan; a brilliant English soccer player who had it all, until he lands himself in jail after fixing a soccer match, drinking himself silly and beats up on two police officers.
Once in jail, the educated viewer will no doubt see the obstacles presented to Meehan, as he must battle abusive guards, a corrupt penal system and other prisoners who want him dead because they lost money when he fixed the match. Yet as time progresses, our hero overcomes these obstacles and makes friends with all the horrible characters in the prison and rallies these men in what can turn out to be 90 minutes of freedom within the thick, white, prison gates.
At the request of prison officials, Meehan is given another chance at soccer glory and is asked to transplant his soccer skills and experience as the coach of the convicts team at the prison. In hopes of profiting from this, the prison governor arranges a match between the convicts and the abusive guards.
One interesting side note is that these vicious criminals who are serving severe sentences seem to be harmless as a gang of misfits lead by the all mighty Danny Meehan. The villains in this piece are the abusive guards who are at the centre of this conflict and that serve as the main reason for the role reversal aspect in the film.
Besides the film’s many incongruencies and bland storytelling, the directing of the film is lifted straight from Ritchie’s style yet simply does not pack that wallop both visually and energetically as Ritchie’s films. Skolnick fails at capturing the intensity of the climax, which is the soccer match, which on many occasions can be deemed horribly strewn together.
Many quick cuts and scene wipes do not help to make the film memorable. The most noteworthy aspects of the film are the characters that, although underdeveloped, force us to root for them.
Despite the film’s build-up to a disappointing culmination, it was never in contention for being a superb film. From its’ promising opening, the film wastes no time at establishing its motive and direction. Yet, it opens like a cheap made for TV film and then slowly builds its’ way in what is to be expected a great finale.
We are aware that the film is meant to be a comedy but how can these men who are serial killers and rapists get along so well and work in cohesion for the good of the game?
On a final note, the comedy is a little repetitive. How many times is it funny to see someone kneed in the groin in a 99-minute film? See the film and find out.


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