I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Machinist

Not sure if anybody else has noticed this, but this guy Christian Bale is a good actor in my opinion. AMERICAN PSYCHO would have to be up there with Eric Bana in CHOPPER as one of my favorite maniac performances of the last 2-7 years. (Now they’re playing Batman and the Incredible Hulk. They shoulda got the guy from DAHMER for Superman.) Mr. Bale was also pretty good in SHAFT 2K and REIGN OF FIRE, where I wouldn’t’ve even known it was the same guy if I didn’t know how to read and recognize names.

Well here in the machinist he gives another great performance but this time with a special nauseating gimmick: the guy lost a bunch of weight for the movie. He looks like a fuckin skeleton with a pair of pantyhose pulled over it. You know how DeNiro and Del Toro ate a bunch of donuts for RAGIN BULL and FEAR AND LOATHING and that was supposed to be so brave? Well Christian says FUCK THAT, eats nothin but grass and grapeskins for like three months or something, turns his muscles into fuckin corn husks. When I heard about it I figured he gets skinnier over the course of the movie, but no, he looks like this from the beginning. That’s the character.

The MachinistAt first it’s pretty shocking because he walks around with no shirt on and, in my opinion, that is not something you want to look at. You feel like if somebody bumped into him on accident in the hallway they might snap his head right off the neck. But put clothes on the motherfucker and it seems more acceptable, he’s just a skinny, wirey, unhealthy dude. He even has relationships with women. They try to get him to eat more food but they don’t vomit when they see him naked. Later on as things go badly for him in the movie he starts to look worse, and you’re not really sure how much of it is makeup. Like, his right eye is so sunken in you can see the outline of the eyesocket. Which I am against. Keep your pants up, keep your shirt on, and keep your eyesockets covered, is what it says in the bible I believe. No shirt, no shoes, no eyefat, no service.

Okay so you knew about all this weight loss shit, what you probaly don’t know is what this movie is about. They don’t tell you that kind of thing, that’s the kind of thing you gotta learn by watching it or by reading my review. Well old Boney here is a machinist at a factory that makes some sort of item, I believe. Cars maybe, or machines. Not sure what it is. And he’s real skinny. Also he hasn’t slept in a year. He meets a weird bald dude named Ivan, who one day distracts him on the job – Bones slips up and causes an industrial accident which costs Michael Ironside his arm. (homage to Starship Troopers.) When he mentions he was distracted by Ivan, everybody is like, who the fuck is Ivan? There’s no Ivan here. THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE.

And a bunch of other, creepier shit happens too. As each day passes in the movie you know it’s another day where old Jack Skeleton hasn’t slept. So he starts to get more paranoid, thinks everybody’s out to get him, and keeps finding cryptic post-it notes on the fridge. It’s one of those deals where he doesn’t really know what’s real and he doesn’t remember things, so the audience doesn’t know what’s real and they don’t know what it is that he doesn’t remember.

Also did I mention that the opening scene is a flash-forward where he rolls a body off a cliff. Shoulda probaly mentioned that. So you know either’s he’s gonna be a killer or somebody really is after him. And he gets further and further away from reality so you can’t trust him to figure it out.

I’m probaly making the whole thing sound stupid, but I thought it was real effective. The thing about this type of thriller usually is until the end of the movie you are able to be bowled over by the spooky shit because of the mystery, the fear of the unknown and all that business. The moment of truth is when it gets to the ending. Then you have a solution and a reason and an explanation and then all the sudden sometimes it’s not so scary or believable anymore.

And as you could feel this thing was getting to an explanation, I was sure that was what was gonna happen. I figured any ending they can come up with is not gonna live up to the beginning and middle, it’s just gonna ruin everything.

To my surprise, the solution solid. It ties everything together. It makes you understand what’s going on but it turns out to be much better than anything I was expecting. And not something I remember seeing a movie about. This is a smart, subtle movie that puts you in the shoes of a skinny freak that you normally probaly wouldn’t want to spend your time with.

The filmatists are: director – Brad Anderson, writer – Scott Kosar. The writer previously wrote the indefensible remake of TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. Fucker. The director is innocent except by association. Together though they did good on this one. Next they are remaking George Romero’s THE CRAZIES, which is one that could stand a remake. Great idea but not one of George’s best efforts, in my opinion. And this seems like a good team to remake it, judging from THE MACHINIST. On the other hand, some commercial director and the guy who wrote SCOOBY DOO actually did a pretty good job remaking the perfect untouchable masterpiece DAWN OF THE DEAD, so all bets are off. They could totally fuckin blow it on this one, who knows. good luck though gentlemen. I’m behind you. Don’t fuck up though. Seriously. No pressure though.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 13th, 2005 at 8:30 am and is filed under Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “The Machinist”

  1. Folks, I was gonna watch MAN ON WIRE yesterday, which I heard was really great, but there’s nowhere around here to rent something like that so I got a ripped copy online but like so many of those damn things it turns out to be half in (french?) and no one bothered to rip the subtitles. Why the fuck don’t they just burn the foriegn subtitles on to films like this I’ll never know. It also made INTO THE SUN pretty damn hard to understand, plus I missed that line about chopping the balls off.

    Anyway, after that I figured what the hell, got the missus here already, might as well watch something, so I grabbed a random screener from my old video store days. I was like, romantic comedy, whatever, take one for the team and maybe win some points back to balance out that time I showed her ERASERHEAD. Fuck I’m sounding like Harry mpw. but bear with me. Anyway, the point is, it was HAPPY ACCIDENTS, which you may remember from its awesome DVD cover

    http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Accidents-Marisa-Tomei/dp/B00006SFKM

    which totally doesn’t make it look like the single blandest thing ever put to film, nope, not at all. Looking at that cover and then reading that it took forver to get its tiny release, I figured it had to be the work of the Weinsteins, but somehow apparently not.

    Anyway my point is the movie is really fucking good. It’s smart and weird and funny and a little romantical, and also has a classic 1/8th second cameo by Larry Fessenden’s horrible head. It turns out it was directed by this guy Brad Anderson, who I suddenly realized has made like four films which are all fucking fantastic. Also he did two episdes of The Wire, and I know how you guys feel about that. Pretty positively it seems like. I haven’t seen NEXT STOP WONDERLAND, but between ACCIDENTS, SESSION 9, THE MACHINIST, and now TRANSSIBERIAN, this guy is batting a thousand. And not just good enough to get by, he’s making sharp, confident and original films with a distinct style and a great sense of escalation. Each one of those is a little gem of greatness. I know he has the most generic name you could come up with, but I’m really thinking this guy might be the real deal. He’s got one more in the can now, and it stars Hayden Christensen, so if he pulls that one off I’m going to have to officially declare this Brad Anderson guy one of the contemporary greats.

  2. I didn’ t know he did that one. Now I will consider watching it. I thought he’d only done MACHINIST, TRANSSIBERIAN, and the SESSION 9 one that I always try to rent around Halloween time but it’s checked out.

    He’s also one of the names being thrown out there to maybe do PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (along with Greg McLean and Brian DeFuckingPalma). After Lionsgate forced the SAW VI guy to do SAW VII instead Paramount said, “Fine, you’re gonna take away our crappy director? Then we’ll get a REAL director. How you like that, asshole?”

  3. Isn’t anyone else weirded out by the De Palma/Paranormal Activity rumor? It just seems so wrong, taking one of the all-time great horror/thriller directors and giving him the crass, cash-grab sequel to a mediocre, gimmicky, fad movie.

    I guess I’m a little fascinated to see what he’d do with the material. On the other hand, I feel like it’s like asking Stephen Hawkins to practice his times tables.

  4. Brad Anderson also kinda sneaked into the postion of being a Producer on “Fringe”. First he directed an episode of it, then another one and suddenly he was listed as a Producer. (At least in S1. Don’t know if he still did anything in S2. Haven’t seen it yet.)

    About DePalma probably doing PA2: I hope he not just gets the job, but also will have complete creative control about the project. Because doesn’t matter if the movie will work or not, if it will be what part 1 promised to be or will end up even worse, it will be definitely worth watching. Even if it’s just for its curiosity factor.
    What would a sequel by a legend like DePalma look like? I don’t know. but shit, I can even imagine that the whole movie will be shot in one single take! And not the faux one take, like Hitchcock’s “Rope”. Seriously, a project like this could bring out the best or the worst in DePalma but one thing is for sure: I’m so gonna watch it, even if I didn’t care for part 1!
    Come on, that’s what the “found tape”-genre needed! A professional filmatist with decades of experience! It might revolutionize the whole subgenre or tank so bad that nobody will ever touch it again for the next few decades. (So it’s kind of a win/win scenario for us.)

  5. Vern –as you pointed out in your review, he was also at one time attached to the CRAZIES remake that just hit theaters to a surprisingly enthusiastic critical response. I was kind of wondering if his involvement had influenced the project towards being as good as people are saying it is. That having been said, I’m kind of glad he didn’t take that one, since I’m really enjoying his streak of small-scale, lunique, surprising narratives coupled with his eye for realism and deliberate (but not slow) pace. I’m sure he’d do a great job with some big studio money pic like CRAZIES (not so sure about PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 — what would that even be about? The only sane thing to do is make a normal type of movie expanding on the concept, BLAIR WITCH 2 style, but if you’re going to do tha then why call it PA2?) but I’d prefer he hit the big times by doing things his way — he has a really great style which I’d hate to see muted by the usual studio trappings.

    Dan — yeah it’s weird and kinda sad to hear that. I can’t even really get excited about him taking on the project, because I bet he’d do it in the same fakeumentary style and just… what else is there to say that was’t already said in the first one? I’m hoping that having is name attached to something like this will raise his profile a little and let him get another shot at making something really weird and crazy, though, to be fair, his resume is a little checkered lately. But he’s getting too old to waste his time on sequels to films which’ll already be forgotten by the time the new one comes out.

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