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Over the last couple of years, Vinnie Jones has proved to be one of the most successful actors to come from Britain. First of all he was a football player for several English teams and even played for the Welsh football team. When he retired he was instantly snapped up by Hollywood. He went on to star in films such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Gone in Sixty Seconds. British movie Mean Machine was Vinne’s first leading role and went on to be a big success at the box office. This is a review of the rental release of Mean Machine, so read on to find out if Vinnie can really act!

Mean Machine (Rental)
Movie
Mean Machine is a remake of the classic Burt Reynolds’s movie ‘The Longest Yard’. With the 2002 version, Director Barry Skolnick decided to make the film more tongue in cheek. Vinnie Jones plays Danny Meehan, a soccer star who has fallen upon hard times. He used to be an English International and had all the money, fast cars and women that he could possibly want. However things went wrong, and Danny ends up in prison on a drunken assault charge. Also renowned for fixing an international match against Germany, Danny is not looking forward to his time behind bars.

Danny surprisingly starts to make friends and enemies quickly. People either love him, or they want to teach him a lesson for taking a bribe while playing for his country. Some people in prison lost a lot of money from the Germany game and understandably hold Danny responsible.  The prison commissioner (David Hemmings) is one of Danny’s new found friends and would like the star to manage the inmates’ football team.  The commissioner is a football and gambling addict and sees a match between guards and inmates as the perfect opportunity to watch football and gamble on the result. At first Danny is reluctant to take the job, but the lure of football proves too much for him and he takes up the role of player manager.

Mean Machine (Rental)
This is where Danny’s job gets harder. He has to turn a bunch of out-of-shape inmates into a team of winners. He enlists the help of fellow inmate Massive (Vas Blackwood) to help manage the team. Danny feels that his skill is needed on the field and that Massive is a tactical genius. Also making up the team are star players Trojan (Robbie Gee), the skilful left winger, Billy the Limpet (Danny Dyer) and goalkeeper Monk (Jason Statham). Monk is a violent inmate who is feared by all. The team was desperate for a goalkeeper and talked the Kung Fu expert into joining by saying that it would be a perfect opportunity to beat up some guards!

Before watching this film I had visions of it being a silly sports movie, following a formula which has already been used several times, e.g. coach takes over a poor team and through hard work and determination they manage to become the best. After about ten minutes however I realised that it was much more serious and surprisingly riveting.  The movie is produced by Matthew Vaughn who was responsible for producing ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Snatch’. It shows in this movie as there are various sub-plots concerning different characters. We have dodgy deals, corrupt wardens and strong relationships, all of which are included in the aforementioned films.  

Mean Machine (Rental)
The movie can be split quite easily into two categories. The first hour is a serious character building story. We learn about Danny’s past and we also see him bonding with his fellow inmates. During the final half hour we see more football action. It then starts to turn into a comedy as we see the team in the build-up to the big match. The last twenty minutes of the movie are dedicated to the big event itself…the match. I am not going to call it a football match though, as at times it looked more like a boxing match! The inmates and guards take every opportunity to sneak a sly punch or elbow at the opposition. All hell breaks loose at several points, and the match is lucky to finish with only one red card! The match is one of the highlights of the movie and provides many funny moments.

Well I suppose you are wondering how Vinnie does in this movie. It’s a hard one to call actually. If you can believe that he is an English International star, the equivalent of David Beckham, then you will probably think that Vinnie did a reasonable job. However I am a Welsh football fan and I am still haunted by our 7-1 defeat to Holland when Vinnie was made captain for the night. For the first hour when Vinnie has to act he does so satisfactorily. He is never going to win an Oscar for his performances but he plays the hard man expertly, though this is to be expected as this is the type of character he has played a number of times before. Once he takes to the field we are meant to believe that he is this skilful midfielder and sadly for me he wasn’t convincing enough.  All in all though it is a fair debut performance in a lead role and I am sure Vinnie will get many more chances to star in movies. As mentioned the movie borrows some elements from ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’. Well it also borrows some of the actors. Jason Statham, Vas Blackwood, Vinnie Jones and a few other actors all starred in the crime caper. Jason Statham has had a varied career so far. Since starring in Lock, Stock he hasn’t really been in any good movies. He had a high profile role next to Jet Li in ‘The One’ but his performance was disappointing. However judging by his role in Mean Machine it looks as though he is taking a step in the right direction.

Mean Machine (Rental)
Mean Machine is so much more than a comedy sports movie. It has strong performances from all the cast and the characters are built up so that we actually care about them. Vinnie puts in a decent performance to once again show that he is one of the hottest properties from Britain at the moment. Don’t be put off by the trailers for the movie as they don’t really show the full story. It’s a film for women as well as men. Mean Machine is definitely worth renting, so what are you waiting for, go out and get it now!

Video
Mean Machine is presented with an anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer. As with most new movies, Paramount have provided a first class transfer. There are no visible signs of edge enhancements or artefacts. The movie is largely shot in prison, but at the end there is a colourful football match. The transfer deals with the change in colours well, and when needed the colours are vibrant. As expected there is no sign of damage to the print, and flesh tones seem accurate. The overall transfer is sharp and clear - truly excellent.
 
Audio
I wasn’t expecting much from the audio side of this disc, but I was left feeling amazed. The movie has an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. At every opportunity the full range of speakers are used. The fronts are mostly used for the dialogue but occasionally voices can be heard from the rears (particularly during the match). The rears are also used rigorously for the musical score. This provides a thumping addition to the soundtrack and really sets the atmosphere. Dialogue is clear throughout and I would go as far as to say that this is one of the better non-action soundtracks that I have recently heard. A superb soundtrack. Also provided are English subtitles.

Mean Machine (Rental)
Extras
As this is a rental copy there are no extras on the disc. For this reason the overall marks won’t be affected by the lack of additional features.

Overall
Good British movies probably come out twice a year, so when they do the audiences here normally flock to see them. Mean Machine comes under that classification, and if you didn’t manage to catch it at the cinema than the rental version of the movie is the ideal opportunity. The disc offers a superb transfer with good sound. Extras are non-existent, but if you like the movie enough I am sure the retail version will come packed with additional footage. Mean Machine is a good night’s entertainment and I thoroughly recommend renting it.  


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