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Film / Mean Machine

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It's Not Just About Football, It's About Pride Inside!

A 2001 British Crime Sport Comedy film which reunites several cast members of Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch., and which is produced by the same bloke who produced those two. It stars Vinnie Jones, Jason Statham, David Kelly, Vas Backwood, Danny Dyer, Jason Flemyng and David Hemmings.

After getting arrested for drink-driving and assaulting a police officer, former England football captain Danny "The Mean Machine" Meehan is sent to Longmarsh Prison for three years. Shortly after arriving, he is brought to the governor who wants Danny to train the prison wardens' amateur football team. Danny, however, proposes to instead assemble a team made up of his fellow convicts to play against the guards.

Although it bears some similarities to Escape to Victory, it is in fact an adaption of the American film The Longest Yard, where the central sport is American football instead of association football.

Nothing to do with Dick Dastardly's car.


  • Actor Allusion: A downplayed example: Sykes is played by John Forgeham, who back in 1969 played a member of Charlie Croker's crew in The Italian Job — in which the criminals used a football match as the cover for their heist. Now, he's Longmarsh Prison's answer to Mr. Bridger, although his patriotism is expressed through a strong loyalty to the England football team rather than collecting pictures of the Queen.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: The Governor is still the villain, and still blackmails Danny to throw the game, but his motives are slightly more sympathetic (he's in deep with a loan shark and needs the money he bet on the game), and several of his Kick the Dog moments from the original movie are absent.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: This turns out to be the reason why Danny deliberately threw his last game, an international against Germany, which earned him the ire of most of the country (not to mention Mr. Sykes and his crew). Bookmakers and loan sharks to whom he owed an eye-watering £425,000 gave him a choice — a wheelchair for life, or make sure the Germans get a penalty.
  • Bedlam House: HMP Broadhurst, known to be the place where truly insane criminals are sent and which has a feared reputation among the convicts. Itself a reference to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital.
  • The Captain: Mr. Burton, Sir, the senior warden, is the fairest and most diplomatic of the screws.
  • The Cameo: Ryan Giggs has a brief one as a guard.
  • The Don: Mr. Sykes is an old-school London Gangster who essentially runs the prison block and has the governor wrapped around his finger with his illegal bookmaking and drug smuggling operations.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Prior to his criminal conviction, Danny was banned from football for life for fixing an international match against Germany; dialogue shows that this wasn't the first time he was involved in match-fixing, and he admits he did it purely for the money (although later on it was to pay off debts to loan sharks who eventually gave him an offer he couldn't refuse). He eventually overcomes this by not fixing the convicts v. guards match, despite the governor putting a lot of pressure on him to do just that.
  • Everybody Calls Him "Barkeep": The Governor is only known by his job title.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Sykes may be a criminal who is up to his eyes in illegal gambling and drug-smuggling, but he would never bet against England. The reason why he's so antagonistic towards Danny in the beginning is because Danny threw a match when representing his country.
  • Fallen Hero: Danny, a disgraced ex-footballer who gets sent to prison.
  • Fighting Irish: Doc, a gangster jailed for killing a rival and his family, is an Irishman.
  • Football Hooligans: Being a football story set in a prison, this is guaranteed with the prisoners who support Danny's team.
  • Humiliation Conga: The cruel and racist Mr. Ratchett is the target of much of the convicts' shenanigans during the match, whether it be treading on his dodgy knee, getting a football to the crotch twice and finally being crippled by Monk (the last action being gloriously performed to the bagpipe section of Carnaval De Paris)!
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: HMP Broadhurst, where Monk was transferred from (and where Nitro gets sent) has a feared reputation among the convicts. Even if you don't know that it's a reference to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital (which despite its high security, is not technically a prison), the name has a harsh sound to it compared to HMP Longmarsh (likely itself a reference to HMP Belmarsh) and especially the low-security HMP Silver Sands.
  • Imagine Spot: During the football match, Monk — the Ax-Crazy psycho who's playing in goal for the cons — picks up the ball. The commentators wonder what's going on in his head; cue a quick montage of what he's thinking ... which involves him making a series of spectacular saves.
  • Insane Equals Violent:
    • The Monk has a reputation for being an Ax-Crazy character who killed 28 people with his bare hands (before he took up karate!), which is why he is feared by both the prisoners and the guards. Naturally, when he hears about the forthcoming guards v cons football match, he wants to play in goal.
    • Nitro is also very much Ax-Crazy with a very short temper, and he's bomb-crazy to boot, killing Doc with a bomb meant for Danny.
  • Large-Ham Announcer: The two cons who commentate on the match for the prison radio, both of whom are called Bob, are very much a send-up of football commentators in general.
    Guards of Pentonville! Guards of Wandsworth! Policemen of Britain! Traffic wardens! Parole officers! Wheel clampers! Your boys have taken a hell of a beating today!
  • The Old Convict: The elderly Doc is at least a generation older than all the other convicts (except maybe Sykes) and has been in prison for a large portion of his life. When no-one else wants to know Danny, Doc is the one who befriends him and shows him the ropes of prison life. It's revealed he is a former gangster who is in prison because he threw an army surplus grenade down the chimney of a rival's house, but due to circumstances he didn't know about (the front door being barricaded with furniture — because the guy was afraid Doc would try to break in — that prevented the fire brigade from getting inside), the resulting fire ended up killing not just the rival but the guy's young daughter, something Doc is deeply regretful about (he's brought to tears when he relays the story to Danny). He gets killed by Nitro by a bomb that was meant for Danny, but before he died he did one last action for the team — negotiate with Mr. Sykes to get the cons quality football strips for the big game.
    Doc: Look at me. Sweet old man, huh? Bit bumbly, full of jailblock wisdom. Cornerstone of the jail, put him with the foundations, right? Right. I didn't get to be the oldest con for breaking windows.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Compared to the other wardens, the senior one, Mr. Burton, Sir, is largely fair and diplomatic and isn't violent, unlike Mr. Ratchett. He also stands up to the governor and protects Danny when the latter's parole is threatened because he ultimately refused to throw the game.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Nitro tries to murder a fellow prisoner in exchange for a promised transfer to a minimum security prison. He gets sent to a Bedlam House instead.