Barry Skolnick's remake of 1974's The Longest Yard never gets as amusing as its opening sequence, a fake sneaker commercial in which soccer thug Vinnie Jones, playing soccer thug Danny "Mean Machine" Meehan, spoofs James Bond. It took three writers to adapt the Burt Reynolds vehicle about an incarcerated football player forced to assemble a team of convicts to play the guards, and the writers do so by re-creating certain scenes almost verbatim, changing the sport to soccer (rugby would've been a better choice), adding in the requisite Britspeak and attempting to update the material. While they no doubt think they've made a grittier film, theirs is actually the tamer version, less funny than the earlier film but lacking its racial and homosexual tension. And Jones' Meehan is made far less likable than Reynolds' Paul "Wrecking" Crewe. For one thing, he thoroughly deserves to be in prison, whereas Crewe, though a major ass, was partially set up by a scorned girlfriend. Meehan isn't as smart, and he's also selfish, willing to consider throwing the final game for his own benefit, while Crewe was willing to do so only to spare his fellow teammates from further abuse. Given that both movies expect us to root for convicted violent felons over those assigned to protect us, we need every bit of sympathy the cons can muster, and this time around it isn't much.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.