A past-his-prime football superstar gets thrown in jail for drunk driving. Once in lockup, he declines to coach the guards' team, but whips a ragtag bunch of inmates into a "mean machine" who go up against the guards in a wild, climactic free-for-all of a game. If this sounds familiar, it's because it's the plot of Robert Aldrich's THE LONGEST YARD, a 1974 action-comedy starring Burt Reynolds. This UK remake features former English soccer (what they call football) star Vinnie Jones and follows the Aldrich playbook pretty faithfully, which is more an observation than a criticism. Taciturn Danny Meehan's (Jones) career went down in flames over a game-fixing scandal, and in lockup he learns that an awful lot of people are still plenty mad about it: He threw a game against Germany, for God's sake remember, in Europe soccer isn't a pastime for suburban kids, it's war with rules. As if that weren't bad enough, he's immediately caught in the middle of a situation involving the warden (David Hemmings, whose eyebrows have taken on such alarming proportions they're nearly horns) and the head guard, Mr. Burton (Ralph Brown). The warden, who likes to gamble, has been pouring money into the guards' soccer team with no apparent results. He wants Meehan to coach them, but Burton has already warned Meehan that his guards won't take marching orders from a con and Meehan had best demur if he knows what's good for him. Meehan eventually brokers a true diplomat's solution: He offers to assemble and coach a team of convicts, arguing that the best training the guards could get is a game against first-rate opponents. With the encouragement of genial lifer Doc (David Kelly), Meehan whips the inevitable sorry lot of inmates into shape. And then it's on to the game, which runs about 20 minutes (to THE LONGEST YARD's 52) and delivers a canny mix of body blows and belly laughs. Most of the latter are supplied by two inmates named Bob (Jason Flemyng, Jake Abraham), who have a fine old time mimicking the mannerisms of television sportscasters. This amiable picture talks tough, but it's all bluster in the end it's as sweet as GREENFINGERS, in which genial lifer Fergus (David Kelly) encourages taciturn inmate Colin Briggs (Clive Owen) to whip a ragtag bunch of inmates into a team of world-class gardeners.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: R
- Review: A past-his-prime football superstar gets thrown in jail for drunk driving. Once in lockup, he declines to coach the guards' team, but whips a ragtag bunch of inmates into a "mean machine" who go up against the guards in a wild, climactic free-for-all of a… (more)