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Mean Machine

Starring: Vinnie Jones, David Hemmings, Vas Blackwood, Jason Stratham, David Kelly, Ralph Brown, Robbie Gee, Geoff Bell, Danny Dyer, John Forgeham, Sally Phillips and Jason Flemyng
Directed by: Barry Skolnick (produced with Guy Ritchie-and it shows)
Rated: R

Oy! What's this then? Aint that the blokes from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch up dare on dat screen? That's a bit of all right then idint it.

Yes, for those of you, like myself, that adored seeing the repeating cast in Guy Ritchie's infamous British bad boy double features you'll positively need to run to the cinema for Mean Machine. This time, Vinnie "Bum of Steel " Jones, is the lead and he's put right into his element. Football. But, not super -bowl -Monday -nights -hanging -with -the -boys- slammin' a twelve -pack-o- frosties- back- and- filthifying -the- house stuff. No. Football's what they call soccer in the Queen's land (in fact everywhere but here in America).

Vinnie who's a card carrying ex- soccer player, plays Danny "Mean Machine" Meehan, an ex-soccer player who's been nicked (arrested) for drunken assault and battery resulting further in his being thrown into a maximum-security prison for three years.

Oh, this prison, Broadhurst, is a special place kiddies (<- she said with heavy sarcasm). Low, low low on the places you'd ever one to end up in for sure. The guards have that charming semi-sadistic appeal and wield their power as a crutch for no-doubt being the least popular lads through their schooling. Of course the inmates are just as corrupt and vicious. Then again, the fact that Danny "Mean Machine" Meehan went from national hero who had it all to a sellout swinehound that threw a game may have something to do with the place's less than warmish reception for the guy. Let's just say, Danny's not their favorite chum by any means.

Just as your thinking this guy's really up Sheets Creek, he gains a few allies.

One of his handful of new friends is the quintessential "get it" guy named Massive (Vas Blackwood), another is Doc (wonderful British cast favorite David Kelly, who's older than Bob Hope I think) the wise old prison guy who looks as if he'd bake cookies and tuck you in with a wee shanty-time tale, and a boy who appears to be Danny's last remaining soccer fan, the prison simpleton, Billy the Limpet (Danny - cute enough to mock-breed with gals- Dyer).

Quicker than a goal at a church yard scramble Meehan is approached by the warden (David "Eyebrows" Hemmings). The warden is a man with a terrible gambling habits (Ritchie fans think Frankie Four Fingers X2). He wants Danny to coach the guards' soccer team. He refuses but offers up an alternative of coaching an inmates team he'd organize. This of course is because Danny's got a hidden agenda for the polite request. The warden agrees and that's a damn lucky break for him because it's not for sh*ts and giggles he's organizing this rogue team of misfits…

See, that infamous game throwing incident I mentioned earlier not only became his career and life ruining pivot as well as drove villages and prison folk to angrily gather for Mean Machine tee-shirt burning soirees, the faux game also apparently cost Danny's new prison's resident Al Capone like man, a very powerful character named Sykes (John Forgeham), a soccer field's length worth of money. And as Sykes sees it, Danny owes him that money -- period!
All the team has to do is actually win and he and Sykes are squared.

The tension is on as everyone in the joint joins in on the game's fun; the warden, the guards, and the inmates. Of course just about everyone has a little something riding on the game, and I mean in more ways than Britney Spears can shake a hipbone!

The cast has impeccable comedic timing and the laughs are hard and frequent! Jason Stratham plays "Monk" one sick bastard who day dreams about mutilations and sometimes just wanders about in a stage of violence. Robbie Gee plays Trojan, a yummy fellow who starts to respect himself a wee bit thanks to the game. There's Nitro the spewing spitting pyro one bolt short of being a proper head case played remarkably insane by Stephen Walters. Stand-up comic Omid Djalili plays the huffing and puffing team member Raj. Vas Blackwood plays Danny's prison team manager "Massive" with scene stealing perfection. The game commentators Bob and Bob, are simply hysterical and will have you rolling about wildly in your seat.

Did you know there are twenty-three semi-illegal ways to bring down your opponent in the frilly girly sport of soccer, er, football? Me neither. Danny "Mean Machine" Meehan does and he seems to get his inner knowledge from his actor Vinnie Jones. Evidently this Vinnie Jones fellow was a bit of a nutter on the field when he played pro…. I don't see it, he looks so innocent and soft. Ta!

Sure, this Jones chap is rough and tumble and a super-sized portion of man stew who happens to be a swell actor to boot, but it's the underrated Jason Stratham that had me in a girlish tizzy! One of the few guys who can actually look adorable, even when playing a deranged cannibal! Oh, you recognize the name? Yeah, Jason was in that god-awful Ghosts of Mars but his other work is so good. Can't we forgive?

But alas, my fickle heart belongs to this Danny Dyer fellow (this week at least). Look past the character Billy's blank stare and you'll see the particular flavor of scrumptious manly yum actor Danny sports.

So, what's the score at the end of the film? Mean Machine is raunchy, rowdy and a bit of rambunctious all right! There's plenty of underlying moral served up about one's spirit and givin' it your all too. Just get out and see this fun sports film. And if the story seems a tad familiar that's because it's a "updated" retelling quazi-remake (if you will) of the 1971 Burt Reynolds sports classic The Longest Yard."

Snack Recommendation: Bangers and Mash
Official Site

A Blunt Bonus: A Terribly Brief Guide to British Prison Slang (one must never be without this kind of helpful knowledge)

Banged up: locked in a cell.

Baron: prisoner who controls illicit articles through bullying and exploitation

Beef: criminal charges, i.e. "I caught a burglary beef this time around."

Bird: prison sentence, i.e. "I'm doing bird" (serving time)

Bit: prison sentence, usually relatively short. "I got a three-year bit."

Bitched: to be sentenced as a "habitual offender."

Bone Yard: trailers used for overnight visits of wives and/or families.

Ding: a disrespectful term for a mentally deranged prisoner.

Dry snitching: to inform on someone indirectly by talking loudly

Dummy Up, Get on the Dummy: to keep your mouth shut

Fish: a new arrival, a first-timer, green to prison life.

Grass: prisoner who provides guards information about other prisoners

Hacks/Hogs/Pigs/Snouts/Screws/Cops/Bulls: the guards

Hold your Mud: do not tell/inform, even under pressure of punishment.

In the car: in on the "deal."

Jam Roll: parole

Jolt: a long sentence, as in "I got a life jolt."

Keister: To hide something in the anal cavity, as in, "I've got the dope stashed in the keister"

On the leg: A prisoner who is always chatting with and befriending guards.

Pepsi Generation: newer, younger prisoners, who lack respect for Old School ways.

Slammed Down: "He's slammed down," meaning locked in the hole

Square John: a guy doesn't know the ropes, a sucker

Tailor made: factory rolled cigarettes.

Yard In/ Yard Out: the recreation area is open or closed

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