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The Longest Yard

The Longest Yard (Original)

the-longest-yard-r-rated-sports-comedyBurt Reynolds plays Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, a washed up, mustachioed wise-cracker who gets an 18 month jail sentence for a rather amusing crime. He’s a former pro football MVP quarterback, but he never seems to care about anything in the world. He has an answer for everything, a quip for every question, and an insult for every man or woman who crosses his path. Can life inside the pen change his nihilistic outlook, or will he continue on his path of scumbaghood?

On his first day Paul realizes that the warden Rudolph Hazen (Eddie Albert) has pulled some strings to get him into his prison. Why? He wants Paul’s help coaching his semi-pro team to a championship which has evaded him for the past 5 years. The deal sounds great- he will be given preferential treatment in return for his help. Unfortunately for Paul, sadistic Captain Wilheim Knauer (Ed Lauter) pressures him to refuse, as he likes his position as head of the team.

 

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Paul “getting along” with the inmate population

Things go from bad to worse for our “hero” as he finds himself in the worst duties without a friend in the world. His fellow inmates disrespect him because of his point-shaving past in pro-ball, and the guards hate him because well, they are violent louts.

Paul starts to crack, and he is offered another deal- create a rag-tag prison team to get pummeled by the guards before their first game of the season. Why? To give the guards confidence in their season, and to instill fear and violence into the prisoners. Did I mention the warden is a sadistic bastard? His love of football is consuming, but it pales in comparison to his love of power, the reason he got into the prison game in the first place.

So who is the rag tag bunch? The most dangerous, vile and violent scum Paul can round up, including the 7 foot tall Samson (Richard Keil). If you don’t know who Richard Keil is, just think of Jaws from James Bong. The guy is an absolute Goliath. But can Paul unite the prisoners against the guards, or will his history as a low-life point shaver stand in the way? Will the different ethnic groups be able to play together or dissolve under their differences?

“The Longest Yard”, released in 1974, has all of the classic comedic values of old school comedies. It isn’t over the top, it isn’t overtly crude, and it doesn’t rely on cheap laughs. The Longest Yard’s focus isn’t just to be funny, it is to tell a great sports drama about a man’s chance of redemption, the subjugated inmate population’s chance to be men once again, and for people to set aside difference to defeat a common enemy. It is about the corruption of power, the corruption of people who have everything they want in life and want for nothing. It is wry, witty, and an intelligent comedy, and that is why it has a place on my list of the best comedies. I implore you, watch the original and not the Adam Sandler remake, or even watch both- they are completely different films, not in plot, but in attitude and humour.

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