Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Barry Skolnick|
|Produced by||Matthew Vaughn|
Guy Ritchie (executive)
|Screenplay by||Tracy Keenan Wynn|
|Story by||Albert S. Ruddy|
|Music by||John Murphy|
|Edited by||Eddie Hamilton|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Mean Machine is a 2001 British sports comedy film directed by Barry Skolnick. It stars former footballer Vinnie Jones. The film is an adaptation of the 1974 American film The Longest Yard, featuring association football rather than American football. It also reunites most of the cast who have starred in the Guy Ritchie blockbusters Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.
Danny "The Mean Machine" Meehan is a retired footballer and former captain of the England national football team, who was banned from football for life for fixing a match they played against Germany. After a long drinking session, he drives recklessly to a local bar, where he is chased by police. Inside the bar, when asked to take a breathalyser test, he assaults two police officers and is sentenced to three years in Longmarsh prison.
Once inside, he is immediately beaten by the prison guards for misbehaving, and subsequently approached by the prison governor. The governor offers Meehan a job as coach of the prison wardens' football team; not wanting to make enemies with the other prisoners, Meehan declines, and instead offers to train a team consisting of other inmates, who will take on the wardens in a practice match.
Shortly after, Meehan arrives in his cell, where he meets his cellmates, Raj, Jerome and Trojan. None of them take a liking towards Meehan, telling him they dont want him in their cell. Outside, Meehan meets and befriends an elderly convict, Doc, who teaches Meehan prison lore. While cleaning the prison yards with Doc, Meehan is introduced to Sykes, a gangster and one of the most respected inmates in the prison. Sykes shows resentment towards Meehan, revealing he lost a large amount of money betting on the England game Meehan fixed. Later in the prison cafeteria, Meehan meets and recruits the resident contraband dealer, Massive, as his right-hand man.
The next day, while Massive is playing football in a prison hallway, a racist guard approaches him and attacks him as the other inmates watch in anger. Meehan charges at the guard and saves Massive from further beating, earning the respect of the other inmates for doing so. This leads to him being sent to solitary confinement for a week. Massive, thankful for Danny's help, gifts him a packet of mints through his cell door.
When Danny is released from solitary confinement, he is greeted by Raj and Trojan who have recruited a team of players and is occupied with the task of training up his team of cons, including a maximum-security inmate named Monk. Meanwhile, the warden gets himself into trouble with "Barry the Bookie," an unlicensed bookmaker who was recommended to him by Sykes. After being threatened on the phone by Barry, the warden decides to try to make back the money he owes by betting on the prison guards' team.
As Danny begins to earn the trust of his fellow inmates and they continue to improve as a football team, a shifty inmate named Nitro accuses him of being a snitch, which leads to two other inmates and associates of Sykes attacking Danny in the showers. As they threaten to cut Danny's eyes out, they are caught by the guards who ask what happened, but Meehan refuses to tell which earns him the respect of both Sykes' men and Sykes himself. The next day, Sykes and his boys offer to help the team if Danny can beat one of them in a fight. The fight takes place later that night, and Danny wins by knocking out Sykes' henchman. Sykes and his associates join, and Sykes tells Danny all is forgiven if his team wins, which would allow Sykes to make back the money he lost on the England match.
Frustrated that his plan to have Danny taken out didnt work, Nitro, a bomb expert, offers to take Meehan out in exchange for a transfer to a lower security prison which one of the guards, Mr. Ratchett agrees to. Nitro crafts a bomb in his cell and places it in Danny's locker while he's not around.
With almost all of the inmates on board and the game approaching, Danny and the rest of the team are going over tactics in one of the cells, when he realises he has left a tape containing footage of the guards playing last year in his locker. Doc offers to go and get it, and as he leaves, Jerome asks Danny why he fixed the England match, and Danny reveals he was heavily in debt at the time, and was blackmailed into fixing the game with the promise of enough money to pay off his debt if he threw the game, or being crippled for life if he didn't. As Danny is telling the other inmates, Doc arrives at the cell and is killed by the bomb. Nitro is subsequently sent to another facility, but not to the minimum-security prison he was promised - he is sent to an mental facility where Ratchett reveals he will be heavily sedated all the time.
The match commences shortly after Doc's death. Before the game begins, Sykes gives the team one last gift from Doc - custom football kits with the name "Mean Machine" printed on all of them. At half time, the inmates' team is winning 1-0, and things are going well until the governor, fearing what will happen if he loses a second bet, attempts to blackmail Meehan, accusing him of accessory to Doc's murder and threatening to sentence him to 20 years unless he throws the match. At first he puts his own interests before that of the team's, deliberately playing badly and faking injury to be taken off the pitch. As the final moments of the game tick down, he redeems himself, bravely using a square-ball to fellow inmate 'Billy the Limpet' to win the game for the cons. Afterward, the Captain of the Guards, Mr. Burton, refuses to co-operate with the governor's attempts to get revenge on Danny, instead congratulating him on the match. The governor's vehicle explodes, and Sykes informs him that he, and Barry the Bookie, will retaliate if he tries anything. Danny and Massive walk triumphantly across the pitch.
The film also included a number of actors who had formerly played professional football, including three players who were team mates with the film's star, Vinnie Jones, at different times in their careers: Charlie Hartfield (prisoners' team in the movie) played with Jones for Sheffield United F.C., while Paul Fishenden and Brian Gayle (guards' team in the movie) both played with Jones for Wimbledon F.C.. In addition, Nevin Saroya (prisoners' team) was once a Brentford F.C. youth team player. Ryan Giggs, then an active player with Manchester United F.C. and the Wales national football team, appears briefly (at minute 77:00) as a warden.
Producer Matthew Vaughan , while looking for a film vehicle to highlight ex-soccer star Vinnie Jones, came across director Robert Aldrich's 1974 American football comedy The Longest Yard. Jones, who was known for rough play and off-field rowdiness, seemed a natural for the lead role.
Mean Machine was filmed from April to June 2001. Most of the prison scenes were filmed at HM Prison Oxford, and the match was filmed at The Warren, the former home ground of Yeading. The Warren is located in Hayes.
Mean Machine was released in United Kingdom theaters on 28 December 2001 and according to the box office database website Box Office Mojo, grossed $2,288,365 during its opening weekend with a total domestic gross of $6,288,153 (as of 27 January 2002). The film was released in the United States on 22 February 2002 with total gross receipts in the amount of $92,770. Total foreign gross (excluding the United States) was $929,283 (as of 23 February 2003).
Reception of the film was mixed to negative, according to Rotten Tomatoes, which gave the film a 34% score. Aggregate website Metacritic gave the film a Metascore of 45, indicating average or mixed reviews, and a user score of 7.7 indicating positive audience response. A major criticism of the film was that it was unintentionally funny and led to "prison cliches".
Jamie Russell of the BBC wrote, "[I]t keeps its tongue welded firmly in its cheek. The scriptwriters have enough sense to replay every funny moment from the original, while also adding a couple of innovations of their own. The final soccer game is definitely the high point of the proceedings, if only because it lets the star do what he does best - play some very dirty football."
While A.O. Scott of the New York Times wrote, "Reviewing ''The Longest Yard'' in The New York Times 28 years ago, Nora Sayre objected to its clumsiness and violence, but admitted to being entertained by the football sequences. Watching this remake, I had the opposite response: the story was moderately engaging and moved swiftly, but the long soccer match at the end bored me silly. Perhaps this is just American chauvinism, or perhaps that kind of football is inherently less cinematic than ours. It's certainly no less brutal."