out of five
: 98 minutes
In 1974 the great American film director Robert Aldrich made a film called Mean Machine. It starred a very charismatic leading man and was a critical and commercial success. The only thing that it has in common with this remake is the title.
Vinnie Jones plays Danny Meehan, a footballer sentanced to three years in Bronkhurst Prison for assaulting a police officer and drunken driving. But his real crime in the eyes of his fellow cons was to throw a match against Germany - of all teams!
No sooner has he swapped his Dolce & Gabbana gear for Her Majesty’s cotton than the prison stereotypes start appearing. The brutal guard, the corrupt governor, the Irish old lag, and so on.
The governor, as it happens, is a bit of a football fan and would like Vinnie to coach the prison officers team in a local league. But Vinnie has a better idea: why not let the cons play the guards?
The governor agrees but only because he sees this as an opportunity to fix the match and repay his gambling debts. So the big question is: will Vinnie be persuaded to take another ‘dive’?
Questions have been asked about the acting ability of the former Wimbledon enforcer, but here these appear irrelevant thanks to his co-stars, some of whose performances are so over-the-top that they resemble one of Vinnie’s tackles.
Debutante director Barry Skolnick must take a lot of the blame for this and the uncertainly of tone: brutal violence one minute, utter farce the next. On this evidence he’s got as much idea of directing a film as David Blunkett has of directing traffic.
The ineptitude extends to the script and even the lighting – shadows appearing on cloudy days. At times it looks like one of the cons has been given a camcorder to make a segment for Video Diaries, it’s that bad!
David Hemmings as the Governor escapes with some dignity, and it’s nice to see Danny Dyer again after his excellent performance as Moff in Human Traffic, even if he is still making the same moves. But at the end of the day, I can’t see anything but relegation to the straight-to-video-league for this team.