The Longest Yard (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A sadistic warden asks a former pro quarterback, now serving time in his prison, to put together a team of inmates to take on (and get pummeled by) the guards.

May 26, 2023 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Paul “Wrecking” Crewe (Burt Reynolds) has never cared much about anything, from his love life, to his professional football career, to the rest of the civilized world. Crewe worries about one person and that’s himself, as that is what matters the most to him, over all other elements. When he played football he was a star quarterback and become a hero, but that all ended when he shaved points in a game. But since Crewe cared more for the money than the game, he had no problem with making sure the scoreboard looked as his clients desired. This has served him well enough until now, but when he beats up his girlfriend and takes her car, he ends up arrested and sentenced to serve some time in a real prison. His reputation precedes him, as the warden (Eddie Albert) asks him to put together a team of prisoners to take on his guards’ team, which plays at the semipro level as it is. In exchange for his coaching and playing, Crewe will be given an early release, which he eventually agrees to and thus, starts to form his team. The men become very close and look to Crewe as their leader, but when the warden demands that Crewe throw the game, what will become of the team’s fate?

I happen to like a lot of sports movies and although some do suck, I think some real gems can be found in the genre. Most of these films use the same premise and change the events & characters, but for some reason, they still dazzle audiences and win fans. But while some of these pictures do indeed suck, The Longest Yard doesn’t and in truth, it is my personal favorite sports film of all time. I like Hoosiers, Any Given Sunday, and Bull Durham, yes, but this one takes the cake in my book. I simply love the performance of Burt Reynolds, who plays off his fellow cast members well and seems to nail the role of Paul “Wrecking” Crewe. Sports films need a good supporting cast also, which this one has and then some, with as terrific a back up team as you could ask for. These men might not be famous faces, but they seem so natural here and that adds depth & realism to the film. I admit, this movie has some flaws and pulls some strings at times, but I simply love it and I think it gets better with each viewing. I am sad that Paramount has issued such a bare bones disc, but I still think this disc is worth a look, as The Longest Yard is modern classic, at least to me it is.

He might take some slack at times, but I think Burt Reynolds is a gifted performer, as his recent supporting work in films has confirmed. Some still see him as the grinning, cackling fellow with Dom Deluise by his side, but there is much more to Reynolds’ career than that. In The Longest Yard, he is able to use his charms and comedic skills, but he also shows his more dramatic side, which also works very well here. I think Reynolds was a natural choice to take this role, as he seems so confident and natural within the part, which ensures the film is effective. His character isn’t always (ever?) a real good guy, but you can’t help but cheer for him, as he really wins you over as the film goes on. The rest of the cast includes Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad, Harry Caesar and James Hampton.

Video: How does it look?

The movie is nearing its 50th anniversary and, as such, was ripe for a new 4K transfer. Well, it got one and we’ve got good news and some not so good news (though this isn’t as bad as one would think). The good is that this is, by far, the best the film has ever looked. The new 4K master used for this disc brings out the best in the film stock, the blue skies and some of the not so lovely parts of prison life. Colors are bold and vibrant, detail has been improved and the HDR has given this image some depth I didn’t realize it had. The not so good news is that it still pales in comparison to some other films of the age. There’s a bit of grain on the print, but given the age of the movie and the effort put into this transfer – it scores.

Audio: How does it sound?

There isn’t a lot to offer up on the audio front. We’ve become spoiled by DTS or Dolby Atmos when even the most romantic of comedies have a great soundtrack. Still, this isn’t the kind of movie that relies on its audio to get the point across. Vocals are clear and crisp and while there’s really no “surround” effects to speak of, I was OK with it. It’s not going to blow the roof off the place, but serves its purpose. Got it? Got it.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Audio Commentary – New to this disc is a brand new commentary by film Critics Alain Silver and James Ursini, Authors of Whatever Happened to Robert Aldrich?: His Life and Films. These guys actually make for a decent track. Granted, since the original track with Burt Reynolds is on the disc as well, that’ll always be the one I’ll favor, but a new track is a welcome addition, for sure.
  • Audio Commentary – Burt Reynolds and Producer Albert Ruddy take part in this legacy track. Sadly, Director Robert Aldrich died in 1983. Reynolds and Ruddy give a pretty matter-of-fact commentary track and tell us some stuff that’s included on the other featurettes. Still, any commentary track with Burt Reynolds is a must have (yes, I mean that).
  • Doing Time on The Longest Yard – This ten minute featurette tells of the origins of the Reynolds character and some commentary by sports writers on the film and its impact.
  • Unleashing The Mean Machine – Several interviews with some NFL players who wax poetic on the impact of the film and the nature of the game.
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line

They don’t make ’em like they used to. They tried, in 2006, but even that seemed like a watered down version of this – the original. This was Burt Reynolds at his apex and it’s one of those movies that I’ll stop and watch if the mood hits me. Kino’s new disc gives us an improved picture and a new audio commentary track. For fans – this one scores a touchdown.

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