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. You can also see Reynolds in films such as Boogie Nights, The End, Striptease, The Cannonball Run, Stroker Ace, and of course, Smokey and the Bandit. The rest of the cast includes Eddie Albert (Dreamscape, The Devil’s Rain), Ed Lauter (Thirteen Days, True Romance), Michael Conrad (Requiem for a Heavyweight, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?), Harry Caesar (Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, A Few Good Men), and James Hampton (Sling Blade, Teen Wolf).
Video: How does it look?
“The Longest Yard” seems to have benefited from an improved transfer of the earlier version. I remember being pretty impressed with the earlier DVD and though the difference isn’t night and day, I did notice some small changes. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer has a pretty clean print associated with it and only at certain times does it really show its age. There are plenty of bright, outdoor scenes that show off how well this looks on disc. I noticed very little artifacting and no edge enhancement. For a movie thirty years old, this looks pretty good.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio for “The Longest Yard” is a basic mono track, nothing more and certainly nothing less. We’ve become spoiled by Dolby Digital and/or DTS when even the most romantic of comedies have a great soundtrack. It’s likely that the re-make (what you thought that this movie just deserved the “Special Edition” treatment just…because?) will have a much more robust soundtrack. This is essentially dialogue-driven and what you hear is what you get. There aren’t any major hisses or drop outs, just a basic mono track that serves the purpose intended. Got it? Got it.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Paramount did do a pretty decent job when they re-released this as a Special Edition DVD. Included is an audio commentary with Burt Reynolds and Producer Albert Ruddy. Sadly, Director Robert Aldrich died some twenty years ago. 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). Next up are a few featurettes, the first is “Doing Time on the ‘The Longest Yard'”. This is a ten minute documentary that tells of the origins of the Reynolds character and some commentary by sports writers on the film and its impact. There’s a look at the upcoming re-make of the film with Chris Rock and Adam Sandler, which is a good thing seeing as anyone who buys this disc will undoubtedly be in line for that one. “Unleashing the Mean Machine” has interviews with some NFL players who wax poetic on the impact of the film and the nature of the game. The original theatrical trailer is included as is a movie ticket for a $5.00 discount. All in all, I think this version is worth the upgrade to Ver. 2.0 and if bought in the next few weeks, you can save yourself some cash to see the new version. A campy and overlooked sports movie from the 70’s and one of Reynolds’ better performances. Highly recommended.