Summer of Sports Films: The Longest Yard

Longest Yard illustration by Jeff Schwartzbauer

The Longest Yard – 1974

Dir: Robert Aldrich | Starring: Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, James Hampton, Richard Keil

Sport: Semi-Pro Football

Review: Paul Crewe (Reynolds) is a former pro-football player who has let the sports world leave him behind so he can focus on being a womanizing drunk. These worlds collide once he beats up his girlfriend, destroys her car, brawls with some cops, and is thrown into a Florida Prison operated by a staff of semi-pro football players. The team/staff the warden has put together can’t quite get over a certain hump in their game and he is going to need some assistance on getting his squad in shape and proposes an ultimatum to Paul Crewe: coach of a team of prisoners to give my boys some warm up games. Crewe agrees and has little trouble assembling a rag-tag squad of rapists and thieves who would murder their mother all over again to have the chance to stiff-arm a guard or two.

Its a comedy if you don’t mind the fact that the characters you are to sympathize with are literally the worst people on earth. Sure the guards aren’t exactly a charming set of peaches themselves but our “hero” at one point bashes a woman’s head against a wooden door in a scene because she is upset that he’s stealing her car. There is some funny moments and its loaded to the gills with macho Burt Reynolds behavior to make it  pretty clear on why this is a film fondly looked back at by the dudes who lived through the 1970’s. The highlight for me in the film is how the actual football game is presented. There is some really unique and dynamic uses of editing and multi-camera presentation – it has an NFL Films quality about it. The movie also does a really great job of reinforcing that Florida is the single worst place in the United States of America. Overall its got some questionable and deplorable components but its also filmed pretty well and fairly entertaining.

Here is far too long of a trailer:

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