Running Time: 105 mins
Rated: Rated M (moderate sexual references, moderate coarse language, Moderate violence)
This is the first feature film for Rob Schneider, and it is a comedy that entertains. An over ego-conscious real estate agent, Stan Minton (played by Rob Schneider) constantly humiliates people to satisfy his ego and greed. He gets caught for fraud, and facing prison for his misdemeanours he is terrified at the prospect of being victimized and assaulted by his fellow-prisoners. Before going to prison, he enlists the help of "the Master' (played by David Carradine) - a self-styled guru, who teaches him to defend himself by turning him into a martial-arts expert, who knows all the tricks of the trade. The first half of the film is corny, but the second half isn't, and the charisma and eccentricity of Carradine are necessary to rescue the film in its early stages. Stan goes to prison and suddenly, his ego has an outlet; the small man looks, fights and talks big and behind the prison walls he quickly gains the respect of his fellow prisoners, even to the extent of being able to reconcile the warring factions among them. The cell-block suddenly has a new bully-hero, who can protect himself very well indeed; and the weakness of the con man on the outside gives over on the inside to a new found strength of purpose. The only real complication is that the prison-warder, Warden Gasque (played by Scott Wilson) does not want the harmony among the prisoners that Stan is able to produce; maintaining war inside the prison has profit in it for the warden, and Stan Minton is a problem for him. He has a deal for Stan, but at the last minute Stan rejects it and opts to defend his mates.
Although the film aims for laughs, it resists the temptation to go for slapstick. The fights scenes are surprisingly good and the film introduces some famous fighters (such as Dan Inosanto, a former student of Bruce Lee, and the fighting champion, Randy Couture who stars in Scorpion King 2) to satisfy martial-arts fans. Rob Schneider practises his newly found martial arts skills with awesome finesse and it is not at all hard to understand the respect that he engenders among the prisoners. In minor roles, Jennifer Morrison plays Stan's myopic wife, Mindy; and M. Emmet Walsh plays his corrupt lawyer rather foolishly. In essence, this is a prison-movie parody that is a better comedy than most, and it manages to maintain a serious tone well in its second half. When Big Stan is offered the arrangement by Warden Gasque to release him from prison early, Stan experiences acutely the moral dilemma of accepting the offer of freedom (at a price), or staying behind to protect the welfare of the friends he has made in prison.
The plot-line is not tight and there is some very questionable moral advice from Stan to his fellow prisoners on their sexual practices, but the movie is funny, especially when it moves behind the bars. It will appeal both to those looking for laughs and those wanting to be enthused by some very good martial-arts action fighting. The fight scenes, orchestrated by Mike Gunther are tightly choreographed and very convincing. There are some crude jokes along the way, and there is silliness and naivety in some of the humour, but generally the film succeeds as a comedy that has a serious point to it.
Crystal Sky Pictures/Silver Nitrate Pictures.Out November 27, 2008
Peter W. Sheehan. Associate of the Australian Catholic Film and Broadcasting Office.