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Former NFL quarterback Paul "Wrecking" Crewe, who had been kicked out of football for shaving points off a game, finds himself on the wrong side of the law and is sent to a state penitentiary (Citrus State Prison in the original film, Allenville in the remake). The prison is known for having a semi-pro football team made up entirely of prison guards, but their team has fallen on hard times. The warden wants Crewe to help turn things around, by assembling a team made up of fellow inmates to serve as a tune-up game for the guards.
However, this game becomes Serious Business for the convicts, who are seeing this as an opportunity to get back at the guards for all the abuse they've been getting over the years. With a former Heisman trophy winner (played by Reynolds in the remake) as the team's coach and a connection for sports equipment from the outside (played by Chris Rock in the remake), the "Mean Machine", as they come to be called, end up making a game out of it.
The remake contains examples of:
- Actor Allusion: Rob Schneider plays one of the good behavior inmates allowed to watch the game from the stands. He cheers on the team at one point by saying "You can do it!" like his character in The Waterboy. Which was another movie where Adam Sandler played a football player, oddly enough.
- All-Star Cast: While not as grand as some examples, the remake is loaded with professional wrestlers and hip-hop artists.
- Big Eater: Has hints of this. The DVD features state that most of the actors were this way as well.
- Big Game
- Blackmail: In the end, to make sure the guards win, the warden attempts to blackmail Crewe by threatening to pin Crewe as an accomplice to Caretaker's murder.
- Busman's Vocabulary: Cheeseburger Eddy in the remake. "Hey, man, you're acting like a real McAsshole!"
- Chase Scene: Crewe goes back to prison for leading the police on a high-speed chase in a car he stole from his girlfriend with whom he had a falling out. He ends the chase by slamming on the brakes, causing every car chasing him to slam into the car, destroying it.
Crewe: [in remake, on TV after wrecking his girlfriend's car] Hey, Lena! I think we should start seeing other people! [drunken laughter]
- Cool Old Guy: Nate Scarborough and Skitchy. "He's been here so long, he knows where everything is."
- Gory Discretion Shot: In the remake, at least. When Caretaker sets off the radio bomb meant for Crewe, the scene cuts to outside the cell, where we see the explosion.
- Groin Attack: In the original Crewe nails the guards' main hatchet-man in the groin on two consecutive plays to take him out of the game. Crewe nails a biased referee in the groin in the remake (on two consecutive plays) to get him to call the game fairly.
- Heel Face Turn: Crewe himself, formerly playing this game only so the warden won't pin more hard time on him, eventually develops a relationship with the team that becomes so strong that, in the end, he refuses to abandon them.
- In the remake Englehart, one of the guards, gradually has one after the cons secretly switch his steroids with estrogen tablets. While he still plays for the guards' team, he bears no ill will towards the inmates and even joins the "girls" in cheering at one point.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Only one black player agrees to play in the game. The guards see this one player as a threat and taunt him with racist comments and other bullying while he cleans up in the library, hoping he will strike a guard and not be able to play, eliminating him as a threat. However, other black inmates witnessed the harassment this one player received at the hands of the guards and, wanting to get back at the guards, agreed to play with Crewe, thus giving Crewe a much better chance of winning than he'd had with just the original black player.
- Jail Bake: In the remake Caretaker receives Meggett's spikes (and implicitly all of the other items he procures for other inmates) in this manner.
- Karma Houdini : Unger in the original.
- The Mole: Unger, an inmate, serves as this, leaking information about Crewe's training and recruiting to the guards, and eventually planting a small-time bomb (intended for Crewe) that ends up killing Caretaker.
- Although they are all well aware that he's doing this.
- The Old Convict: Pop
- Plucky Comic Relief: The remake has Brucie, an angry little man who can't play very well.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Turley in the remake
- Remake Cameo: Burt Reynolds, who starred in the original, as Nate Scarborough in the remake - an unusually large part for this trope.
- Scary Black Man: Half the team but is Subverted in the remake by Swatowski (Bob Sapp) who's more of a Gentle Giant/Man Child.
- Situational Sexuality: Brucie in the remake, who actually has a wife on the outside, is at one point caught on camera getting intimate with one of the "girls".
- There's also this little exchange in the remake when Caretaker first meets Paul:
Caretaker: I can get you anything you want.
- Unnecessary Roughness: Oh yeah.
- Was It Really Worth It?: Pop in the original, and Skitchy in the remake, ended up having 20 years added to his sentence for punching a guard who ended up becoming the warden. When asked this question, Pop/Skitchy's response is, "It was worth every goddamn minute."