Mean Machine (2001)
Rather than repeatedly compare this to The Longest Yard, it's the UK/soccer equivalent of it and mentions in the opening credits that it's based on it. On top of that, Vinnie even bears a passing resemblance to Burt back in the day and there are quite a few shot-for-shot homages to it. All in all very faithful to it while still having its own style and angle on the core story.
All in all a surprisingly decent film that I'd likely have never stumbled on if not for running through Statham's movies. It goes a little far into melodrama for my tastes, but the acting is fine and it's full of really good moments. Vinnie isn't remotely as fun as he was in previous roles, but given that he's playing a soccer star fallen from grace who has just been imprisoned and forced to coach a soccer team against his wishes, I couldn't really expect a repeat of his Lock, Stock or Snatch characters. The ending soccer match was highly entertaining and had some truly excellent moments and some wonderful commentary by inmates Bob & Bob.
Statham finally turns badass! He plays Monk and all the backstory we're given is showing him shirtless and ripped (according to my sister, this is a core requirement for a proper Statham movie) while practicing tai chi and that he killed 23 people with his bare hands. That's really all the character introduction he needs as the rest of the time is a wonderful amount of Statham looking like a barely controlled psychopath while repeatedly kicking and punching people. I expected that we'd see a fair amount of that during the match, but what I didn't expect were his utterly fantastic daydream sequences during the match. From imagining himself destroying one of the guards to being the hero in goal, he keeps going off into la-la land and then snapping back to the present. Combined with his manic stares and near-rabid behavior, the daydreams are one of the more effective things in the film and completely cracked me up.
Badassery Quotient - 7
He's not in much of the film, but when he's on screen, he's in great form. No gunplay, but we finally get to see him doing some form of martial arts and the first time we're asked to accept he's a complete badass. Which of course he his, but it's a testament to his awesome screen presence that he's believable in such an over-the-top role.
Rewatchability - Sure
The second act drags quite a bit, but I'd go back and watch again just for the daydreams alone. All in all, an entertaining movie that I'm glad I stumbled into and one I'd feel comfortable recommending to any Statham, Vinnie, soccer, or The Longest Yard fan.
Up next - The Transporter!! The first movie I remember seeing him in and I'd love to know more about how this movie came to be given that there's really nothing in Statham's body of work up to this point that would suggest he could carry off that sort of lead role. But who cares? Bring on the mayhem!