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Mean Machine (2002)
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Review Date: March 06, 2002
Director: Barry Skolnick
Writer: Charlie Fletcher, Chris Baker, Andrew Day
Producers: Georgia Masters
Actors:
Vinnie Jones as Danny
Jason Statham as Monk
David Hemmings as Governor
Plot:
Legendary soccer player Danny Meehan is past his glory days and is now drinking, driving and smacking out cops. Sent to jail for a period of three years, Danny hooks up with a bunch of gold-hearted conmen on the inside (aren't they all?) and puts together a football, oops...I mean, soccer team to play against the guards.
Critique:
These types of movies are the most difficult ones for me to review. They contain many things that are wrong with them, but at the same time, they have certain elements that work really well. What to do, what to say...? Okay, let me start off with the good stuff. I like Vinnie Jones. I'm a fan of his work and I dig him as a personality. In this film, he plays the guy that you'd expect him to play, but doesn't "go nuts" like we're used to seeing him in other movies, he's reserved, he's cool, he's calculating and unemotional, and for me, he did what he needed to do to get the job done. Granted, he doesn't exactly exude DeNiro-esque acting abilities, but his character's emotions were internalized anyway, so those skills weren't necessarily required in the first place. He does however maintain amazing soccer skills (before acting, he was a professional soccer player), and those were definitely taken full advantage of in this film, in which the soccer scenes are definitely the greatest highlight. What else did I like? Well, the rest of the stuff is pretty difficult to get a handle on, since I liked some of it, and disliked it at the same time. Does that make any sense? Let me explain.

I really dug the mix of music in this film, some classical, some new school, some 70s stuff, but at the same time, I thought that a lot of it was used in the wrong places. It worked really well during some scenes, but stuck out like a sore thumb in others. The same can be said about the actual plotline of the movie. It's entirely predictable in that "let's enjoy it for what it is" kind of way, but it just mixed too many different genres to work entirely as a whole. What that means is that some scenes in the movie contained straight-out slapstick comedic elements, while other scenes would be dead serious with murders, blackmail and intense showdowns which seemed very out of place in this otherwise, "light" film. What kind of movie were they going for? By the end of it all, it's obvious that it's a feel-good comedy, but many of the prison sequences didn't entirely work because you just didn't know if it was supposed to be funny or serious. I also felt mixed about the rest of the characters as well. Sure, Vinnie held it together with his mean kick and surly expression, but some of his sidekicks weren't as effective. Two particular moronic inmates were just too "over the top" to work, the first was a dude who drooled and spit every two seconds, and the other was a big-ass fat guy acting like one of the three stooges (not funny). Many of the others did work though including a younger dude who looked up to Jones and Jason Statham as an individual nicknamed "The Monk" who was probably one of the funnier people in the movie.

I also liked the way that the film opened with Jones drinking up and shit, enjoyed the obvious gratuitous "action" sequence featuring Vinnie arm-fighting (you have to see it to know what that means), and the last 20 minutes which were an all-out blast. The two commentators during the soccer "match" were also quite the hoot, and the scene in which the young kid is used as an exhibit to showcase what type of "fouls" are committed during the games, was hilarious. I guess I'm also glad that for once, the ol' standard "rag-tag team of guys getting together to defeat the almighty against all odds" was a different sport in this case. Soccer! We don't get much of that around here, so it was nice to witness another sport in the spotlight. The film isn't perfect by any means (as explained above) and definitely moves too quick from scene to scene (some scenes barely lasted 20 seconds), but nobody can complain about it rambling on, that's for sure. It isn't anything new, there isn't much in the film that will surprise you, but if you enjoy your typical jailhouse movies, and you like it when a downtrodden bunch of nobodies work together in the hopes of triumphing over the evil leader-types, than this film will surely give you enough to smile about. I liked more of the stuff in the film than I didn't like, so I'm recommending it, even if it is so lightly. Oh yeah, and it doesn't hurt if you're a fan of either Vinnie Jones or soccer...or both!
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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