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"The Machinist"

Directed by Brad Anderson.
Written by Scott Kosar.
Starring Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón and John Sharian.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  11/8/04


Once again, I was left in the dark about the new Christian Bale thriller "The Machinist" because I had done literally no research on it prior to release.  I like Bale, and generally think he's a good actor, so when I saw an ad for this film while visiting New York recently I figured I would check it out.

Here's what I can confirm--Bale did lose a LOT of weight to make this movie.  In "The Machinist", Bale stars as Trevor Reznik (not to be confused with Trent Reznor...right?), a machine operator in California that seems to have a problem--for the last 12 months, he's been losing weight at an alarming pace and seems to be unable to fall asleep.  His co-workers are getting worried about him, as is his regular call girl, Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh).  His landlady is taking notice of his health problems, and a new guy at the factory named Ivan (John Sharian) has Trevor all figured out too.  And, what about that dead body that Trevor tried to roll into the river when the film started?

The first 30 minutes of "The Machinist" really had me hooked.  This is some parts cool storyline (I was getting a slight "Memento" feeling when we opened up) and some parts Christian Bale at 135 pounds.  Seriously, while in the theater with my buddy Schmoove and his fiancée Lucie, all of us were in shock any time Bale would stretch out or take off his shirt...he takes "bone thin" to a whole new level, and during one scene I felt so sick to my stomach that I went through my pockets looking for some kind of snack I could throw at the screen, just hoping the poor guy would eat!  Very well-filmed dark tones and constant sepia (that just sounds like cameraspeak, accurate or not) create a mood of gloom and doom that really sets the stage nicely for a nice little murder mystery.

But after that, "The Machinist" never seems to capitalize on its intro.  The story never gives you any reason to be engaged after you sense that something is not right with the world that Trevor is living in; a particularly strange visit to a local fair leaves you with this whacked-out, "where the fuck is this going?" feeling, and then the movie just kind of rolls out what is really going on with all of the characters.  Schmoove couldn't wait to get out of the theater, he was so disinterested in what was going on; I'll admit, the ending was neither sexy nor succinct, so some dragging took place as we finally pulled into the denouement.  The Bale-as-starved-"Thinner"-victim wears thin (no pun intended) surprisingly fast; the shock effect of his being so slight almost evaporates in the film's final third.  And, you just get kind of tired of hearing Leigh talking; the woman has literally cornered the market on cracked-out whores, hasn't she?

Everything about "The Machinist" is strong early, but the downward spiral that takes place the rest of the flick left me feeling cheapened by the experience, and certainly poorer, since this New York City matinee cost me $10.25, the fucking bastards.  Bale does give a banner performance and I'm sure that somebody will give him an award for it...just not the Oscar.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09