After Lock, Stock and Snatch were massive hits, it was Vinnie Jones, not Statham who seemed set for the big time. Hollywood fell in love with him, what with his presence and his rugged good looks. He appeared with Nicholas Cage in Gone in 60 Seconds and with Halle Berry in Swordfish before coming back to the UK to make Mean Machine. Statham on the other hand, had appeared in three much, much smaller movies and not exactly set the world alight in any of them.
Mean Machine is, I think, the point at which the predictions of Jones as star and Statham as also-ran came closest to reality. After this, Statham would start to make his name as an action star and Jones’ career would begin to stall, until eventually somebody at 20th Century Fox would really shit the bed by hiring him to play Juggernaut and things would fall apart.
Which is a shame because he isn’t terrible in Mean Machine. He isn’t Anthony Hopkins or anything, but he’s alright. He has clearly had a few lessons since playing Big Chris. He’s learning the craft. Good for him, I say. In an alternative universe somewhere he’s probably got his own Saturday night police drama or something.
As for Statham? Well, he doesn’t really have a lot to do. He plays Monk, a near mythical hard man/nut job who ‘even the screws are scared of’, the portrayal of which mostly consists of preening and gurning (both of which, to be fair, he is very good at). Like a lot of the actors in Mean Machine he is capable of more than the film offers them. Which isn’t to say that Mean Machine is a bad film, just that there is a lot going on. There are at least two plot lines that aren’t necessary and way too many characters. As well as Statham; Robbie Gee, Sally Phillips, Danny Dyer, Jason Flemyng, and Omid Djalili appear and get less than a dozen lines between them. This was in that post Pulp Fiction era of course, when multiple plot lines were all the rage, so it seems churlish to blame anyone, but the end result is that it is a film of moments rather than something that will change your life. No harm in that though, I suppose.
Statham gets about six lines, and I reckon he managed to remember to do his Scottish accent in at least four of them, so that is pretty good. He does a flying header at one point that is worth a mention. I probably should have mentioned that Mean Machine is a football movie, but I didn’t, because it doesn’t fucking matter.
So the thing I learned from Mean Machine was… don’t count Vinnie Jones’ chickens based just on Snatch
And my arbitrary score for Mean Machine is… five Stahams out of ten.