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by David Cornelius

"This machine's broken."
1 stars

What a strange, stupid, crazy, horrible little movie.

“Machine” is a low budget crime thriller, the sort riddled with half-baked plotlines about drug deals gone wrong and hit men working off their debts, the sort where half the action takes place in a strip club and the other half in the producer’s apartment complex, the sort where doughy guys play Italian mob bosses who sit down for scenes with Asian mob bosses. It’s a brutally cheap homemade affair, shot on digital video with what appears to be a coffee filter clamped tightly over the lens. The acting is atrocious, the direction worse, the dialogue even worse still. Amateurish idiocy is everywhere here.

But then, wait a second… is that Michael Madsen? Why, yes, it really is. And hey, there’s Neal McDonough! Granted, both have been in some very bad movies, but those were bad movies of some quality, whereas this, well, this is the sort of movie whose highest ambitions involve a couple late night airings on low power TV stations and maybe quickie sale to the international direct-to-video market. Seeing these pros pop up here to share screen time with the rookies struggling to remember their lines is like hearing the guy from Sugar Ray singing backup for some college band that just got together a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, we can see the Sugar Ray guy’s career dwindling to the point where he’ll take work where he can get it, but it’s still a bit hard to comprehend how he wound up hanging out with the bass player from the Toledo Funk Daddy Express.

Of course, Neal McDonough shouldn’t be at the point in his career where he’s desperate to snag a bit part in some cheapjack turkey. (Madsen, meanwhile, is no stranger to bottom rung crapola.) In fact, McDonough is rather good here, bringing a slick villainy to his role as the crooked cop. Which makes his appearance all the more bizarre - what’s a performance like this doing in a movie that doesn’t even know what to do with it? The man shares scenes with actors who trip and stumble their way through, and we wonder what bet it was he lost.

“Machine” is written, produced, and directed by first-time filmmaker Michael Lazar, who assures his pet project will be completely incomprehensible from start to finish, because he also stars in the thing. He plays (if that word can be used for such a stilted, dopey appearance) Vic, a former Special Ops badass who now works as a hit man. A mob boss hires him to off a few key witnesses in his upcoming trial; another mob boss also keeps Vic on his payroll, setting up some battle-between-the-mobs action; Vic’s girlfriend talks of masterminding a major heroin deal; cons and doublecrosses abound; and through it all, Vic keeps having violent flashbacks and flash-shock dreams.

It’s an awful lot for a movie of this size to try and handle, which is probably why not a single idea works. The movie’s a cluttered mess with a plotline so long-winded that one runs out of breath just trying to make it all connect. It doesn’t help that there’s not a single scene here that keeps your interest long enough to bother pasting the story together in your head; even the scenes where the professional actors step in to lend a hand are so ineptly filmed that it’s impossible to care.

In fact, it’s such a exasperating affair that even laughing at it becomes a hassle. One wants to giggle endlessly, of course, but that requires an amount of effort a project this weak doesn’t quite deserve. It’s dumb to the core and twice as cheap, and your time is better spent wondering exactly how many hours into production it took for McDonough to become embarrassed with the whole thing.

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originally posted: 03/14/07 15:34:49
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  06-Mar-2007 (R)
  DVD: 06-Mar-2007



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