MEAN MACHINE, 2001
Starring - Vinny Jones, Danny Dyer, Ralph Brown, Vas Blackwood, Jason Statham, Geoff Bell
When ex-England football captain Danny Meehan (Vinnie Jones) finds himself banged up in prison everyone wants a piece of him. The Govenor wants Danny to train the prisons semi-professional team, but he has another idea – The Cons vs The Guards. As Danny has to prove his worth to convince the inmates to play for him he learns a lot about himself. When the big game comes the Cons take the lead and could easily win it, but will Danny be persuaded into forfeiting the game in order to save himself?
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Danny ‘The Mean Machine’ Meehan (Vinnie Jones) swigs whiskey from the bottle as a police car chases him in his Mercedes. When he’s finally arrested he throws a few punches. He arrives at Longmarsh Prison and is put in his place by Mr Ratchett (Geoff Bell) - the ex-England football captain has fallen a long way since selling his country out. Mr Burton (Ralph Brown) insists that Danny turns down the Governor’s offer of coaching the prison guards football team when offered.
Danny is given the task of sweeper and paired with Doc (David Kelly) who lends him some wise words before he is summoned to Mr Sykes (John Forgeham). Sykes runs the nick and lost a lot of money when a certain England player gave away a suspect penalty – so Danny owes him. Danny doesn’t understand what everyone’s problem is and when he enters the canteen it falls silent. Nitro (Stephen Walters) offers him friendship, but he obviously has a screw loose. Massive (Vas Blackwood) offers Danny anything he needs whilst inside and a warning about Nitro. Danny upsets his cellmates whilst The Monk (Jason Statham) performs karate in his cage.
Danny meets the Governor (David Hemmings) and declines his offer of coaching his team. Given aggro in the canteen by Mr Sykes’ muscle, Ketch (Andrew Grainger), Danny retaliates and a fight breaks out. The guards break it up with pepper spray before dragging Danny into solitary confinement. Massive gives Danny the idea of staging a game between the guards and the cons. The governor agrees to it.
The cons aren’t keen on playing for Danny and Sykes’ boys wont play without his permission. Danny spies Ketch selling drugs when he is bothered by Billy the Limpet (Danny Dyer), his biggest fan and the prison idiot. Massive is kicking his ball up against the wall when Ratchett hands out a beating and the cons stand and watch. Danny runs to his rescue, but is given his own beating and more solitary confinement.
When Danny is released the cons welcome him out with a kick around. Danny watches as their dribbling, shooting and general fitness is shambolic. Nitro wants a transfer so he sets up Sykes’ men and when Burton arrests one for dealing drugs Nitro suggests to Ketch that it was Meehan who let slip. Ketch and Chiv attempt to cut out Danny’s eye, but he breaks free. When Burton interupts Danny hides the knife and avoids getting them into trouble. Chiv gives Danny an idea and he offers Sykes the chance to call the result of the game if he lets his boys play. Sykes isn’t keen and states that he has never bet against England and would never bet on the screws beating the cons. He sends him on his way.
After a change of mind Sykes tells Danny he is on for the game, as long as Danny fights one of his boys. Danny and Ketch take it in turns to throw punches and then down prison booze before Ketch swings and misses. Danny smashes him in the face and his head goes down. Danny welcomes Sykes’ boys to training and puts them through the motions, but they don’t look too clever. They are still missing something - Chiv suggests The Monk.
Sykes speaks to the Governor about getting The Monk involved and talks him around by suggesting that the Governor bet on the guards to win. Danny’s boys are hard at training again and The Monk makes an interesting addition in goal, whilst Nitro builds a homemade bomb. Danny is summoned into the Governor’s office by his secretary and given a tape of the team in action and he hides it in his locker. As the team meet in Sykes’ room for a briefing Nitro plants the bomb in Danny’s locker with the tape. Doc offers to collect the tape as Danny tells the boys how he got involved with bad bookmakers so deep that throwing a game was his only way out. Doc opens Danny’s locker – BOOM! Nitro is transferred – to HMP Broadhurst.
Game day. Danny gives his team a pep talk, Sykes pulls out the team’s new kit and the words ‘Mean Machine’ adorn all their backs. Bob Likely (Jason Flemyng) and Bob Carter (Jake Abraham) offer the wise words of commentary as the prison listens on over the tannoy system. Kick off. The tackles fly in from the off and tempers fray. Smooth moves and tricks are met with elbows and sliding tackles. Burton has a chance cleared off the line. Meehan rifles a volley into the net and the cons are one up - the prison erupts. Just before half time a fight breaks out, the ref blows early and the teams head to the changing rooms. Danny gives his talk and brings on Billy the Limpet. The Governor summons Danny into the showers and pressures him to lose.
The 2nd Half. Danny looks a shadow of himself and Billy chases the ball like a terrier before missing an open goal. The cons are down to ten men when Raj (Omid Djalili) is sent off for punching a guard, but against the odds the cons score again – it’s Ketch. Danny doesn’t look happy though. The Monk is messing about with the ball on the edge of his area when he loses it and the Guards score, 2 – 1! Meehan is softly knocked off the ball by Burton and limps off to watch from the side. The Governor grins. Massive questions Danny’s injury and Sykes wants to know what’s going on? The Guards score again, 2 – 2. Danny watches the Governor’s smirking face. He puts his boot on and is ready to come back on.
Danny is back, but the team wont pass to him. He hustles, runs and challenges like a one-man army winning every ball. The cons score again, but the flag is up - offside! The guards have a free kick and it’s heading right for the top corner…. Until The Monk saves it. The cons are back on the ball and Danny has found himself alone in the guards half. He heads for the goal, rounds the keeper, he’s taken down, rolls and is back up. The goal is wide open! Danny stops the ball, turns, looks. Both teams are racing down the pitch towards him. Danny slides the ball across the open goal into the path of….. Billy the Limpet! Billy swings his leg at it. The ball flies into the open goal! The prison erupts and the cons celebrate. The Governor makes a b-line for Danny and states that he’s going to get his revenge. Burton steps in and states that no one is being stitched up on his watch. Sykes seconds that. The Governor is put in his place. Danny slams the ball into his chest and walks off triumphant.
Mean Machine is a good old fashioned light-hearted British comedy based on the old American film ‘The Longest Yard’. The British take on the story is full of classic British stereotyping with Cockney gangsters, Irish bombers, racist guards and sarcasm, dry wit and one-liners. Vinnie Jones plays a character not too far from himself as an ex-footballer with bad press, but portrays it nicely. The rest of the cast add their own twist to their interesting selection of characters and all entertain. The comedy is subtle and easy to watch as it interweaves with a decent and believable story. It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at prison life and the characters you may find behind bars so does it exactly what it says on the tin – it entertains. The ending can be predicted within the first five minutes and comes as no surprise, but it still brings a smile to your face when Bill the Limpet rifles the ball into the net. You try not to, but you can’t help but get swept away in the supporting the Mean Machine.