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A football player-turned-convict organizes a team of inmates to play against a team of prison guards. His dilemma is that the warden asks him to throw the game in return for an early release, but he is also concerned about the inmates' lack of self-esteem. Written by
Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Longest Yard refers not to the territory gained and lost in a football game. For Burt Reynolds its that prison yard that he's in for the next 18 months.
Reynolds isn't one of the noblest athletes ever to grace the National Football League. He was a quarterback who was thrown out of the game in a point shaving scandal. Now he's doing time for stealing his mistress's Maserati and causing a lot of havoc and mayhem when she called the cops on him.
The Longest Yard starts to look a little like From Here To Eternity where Monty Clift's company captain Philip Ober wants him to box for the post championship. Reynolds really isn't interested in playing football any more or helping warden Eddie Albert out with his semi-pro team of prison guards. But he's got less redress than Clift did in the army and Reynolds is not a person to make too fine a point of resistance.
What Reynolds suggests is a tune-up game with a squad of the inmates to play the guards to keep them in a fighting edge. Sounds real good to Albert who has a mean streak in him that Reynolds is slow to realize. There's a lot of possibilities to inflict some legal pain and for him to reassert his authority.
The Longest Yard is first and foremost about what Reynolds will do when the crisis comes. His track record doesn't suggest any heroics, but some people do surprise you.
The antagonists Reynolds and Albert are given good support by director Robert Aldrich's picked cast. Foremost among them are Ed Lauter as the chief guard, James Hampton as the team manager, and Charles Tyner in a particularly loathsome role as a prison stoolie. He will really make your skin crawl.
Bernadette Peters is also in The Longest Yard as Albert's secretary with the delightful name of Miss Toot who takes advantage of her position with a little sexual harassment of the prisoners. I do love that Dickensian name that was given her for this film. The only other female of note is Anitra Ford who is Reynolds mistress and whose Maserati he appropriates. When Burt says he earned that Maserati you can well believe it.
The Longest Yard is in a class by itself, a sports/prison movie. A film that created it's own genre. That has to count for something.
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