Vinnie Jones was the highlight of LOCK, STOCK, AND ETC. ETC., playing the shotgun carrying thug who brings his son with him on the job (SEE: theory of badass juxtaposition; Vern, author). He had a very convincing tough guy, take no shit presence, and I’ve enjoyed seeing him in motion pictures since then, even though most of the british crime pictures that have come my way have been self conscious garbage trying to imitate that earlier picture. I know alot of you liked SNATCH but, I mean, jesus people. Let’s have some standards, is all I’m saying, in my opinion.
According to the british, Mr. Jones was already a famous soccer player known for grabbing a guy in the nutsack during a game. Not in a loving and consensual way either, from what I understand. I guess that’s how people knew he was tough even though he was running around in little shorts bouncing a rubber ball on his head.
If you think about it too, it’s not often that an athlete can make that transition to acting. At least on the big screen, I don’t know about theater. If you think about all the american athletes that have become actors, it’s not pretty. I enjoyed Dennis Rodman in DOUBLE TEAM but that was surrealism, so it didn’t require full acting chops. His acting was slightly improved in SIMON SEZ and still not something most people would want to have to watch. Michael Jordan wasn’t completely embarassing in SPACE JAM, but he was playing himself, and mostly just played basketball or said a sentence or two while looking at a guy holding up his hand saying “This is Bugs Bunny standing here”. Notice he hasn’t acted since. Also, to be considered a real actor one must achieve a level higher than “wasn’t completely embarassing.” Shaquille O’Neal was probaly the worst, remember that genie movie he did for Taco Bell? The only decent one I can think of is the kid who starred in HE GOT GAME. Unless you count Roddy Piper.
Anyway, with Vinnie Jones being a legitimate movie star, and a genuine soccer player, it was only a matter of time before the producer of LOCK, STOCK, BLAH BLAH BLAH cast him in a british remake of THE LONGEST YARD substituting “football” for football and advertising it in the states as this year’s “this year’s full monty”.
I know alot of my readers are from europe or new zealand, so there are a few things I need to explain to you about america. Number one, sorry about that whole “george bush” thing. We didn’t vote for him, though. Number two, the correct term is “soccer”. Football is another sport, where Burt Reynolds has a bunch of padding on, and he slams into other guys while they throw a ball around. Number three, nobody here watches soccer, except for young guys who are trying to prove their individuality while still being able to sit around watching sports on tv.
But number four, most importantly, you gotta understand that in america, it is not acceptable to remake a picture like THE LONGEST YARD. Because it is already a perfect picture, for what it is. You cannot match Burt Reynold’s cockiness, or even his mustache, even though he shaves it off when he goes down. THE LONGEST YARD is a universal story. The hot shot who sells out and blows it, but regains the respect of himself and others by leading convicts to a sports victory. It is about failure, it is about ethics, it is about honor, loyalty, team work, and redemption. But most of all it is about every american’s fantasy to get away with beating the shit out of a screw. The triumph of good over evil. THE LONGEST YARD is the perfect sports movie, because it is really a prison movie, and who wants to see a fuckin sports movie anyway. THE LONGEST YARD is one of our national treasures, it is our TITANIC, our STAR WARS, our MALTESE FALCON. What DR. WHO and all that other crap you guys watch, what that means to you, THE LONGEST YARD means to us.
Just kiddin brits, nobody really remembers THE LONGEST YARD, but I saw it on cable once and I thought it was pretty good. If you haven’t seen it, you could probaly enjoy MEAN MACHINE, which follows the story pretty closely and has the same kind of broad humor and stick-it-to-the-man audience manipulation. I gotta say the obvious though, the original is better. The opening car chase is WAY better. Less slick, more mayhem. Burt Reynolds is slimier but he goes through more of a character evolution. Vinnie seems like a stand up dude right from the beginning. Burt has to prove himself. Vinnie, you never really believe he’s gonna sell out the cons to cut down his sentence. With Burt, you can suspend your disbelief for a second there. I mean that dude’s a slimeball. So it seems like there’s more at stake. Also, I like the wacky american stock characters of the original better than the wacky british stock characters of the new one. Maybe because I’m so patriotic. Either way it’s pretty silly though. This one has “the governor” instead of the warden. He’s played by Dildano from Barbarella, and his character is basically the same as the dean with a stick up his ass in every college movie made in the ’80s. I can’t remember but the warden in THE LONGEST YARD was probaly the same.
Obviously, though, the americans win with the exploding lightbulb scene.
Burt and his movie were better, but Vinnie is a good replacement, especially because of them soccer skills. If one thing is better in this movie it may be the game because our lead, Mr. Jones, is clearly really kickin the ball around (I don’t believe he grabs any nuts, though). Watching this made me think soccer wasn’t that bad of a sport. Not as many interuptions as real football, and more personal without all the gear. I’m still not sure why it’s so popular over there that the only movie Terry Gilliam’s been able to finish since FEAR AND LOATHING OF LAS VEGAS was a nike commercial about soccer. But I did figure out one thing: it’s called football because you’re always hitting the ball with your foot, unlike in real football, where kicking is only a small part of the game. Maybe those english know what they’re talking about.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.