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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 34.31%
Average: 7.84%
Pretty Bad: 2.94%
Total Crap: 0.98%

8 reviews, 54 user ratings

Machinist, The
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by EricDSnider

"Christian Bale is thin, but the story isn't."
4 stars

The key to making a good thriller with a twist ending is to focus on the thrills, not the twists. Films like "The Sixth Sense" and "Memento" work because they are enjoyable even before you find out all the details at the end. Films like "The Forgotten" and "The Village" don't work because without their surprises, there's nothing to them.

"The Machinist" gets it right. Its "surprise" turns out to be simple and not terribly surprising, but that isn't a deficit, because the film doesn't rely on it. An unsettling psychological thriller despite being composed of old, familiar parts, the film has an atmosphere that's as scary and tense as anything else this year.

Much attention has been paid to Christian Bale, who lost more than 60 pounds to play the title role, a haunted blue-collar worker named Trevor Reznik. Trevor hasn't slept in a year and looks like he hasn't eaten in at least that long. Currently weighing in at 120 pounds, he is a ghastly skeleton of a man, a Gollum-ish specter who has begun to freak out his co-workers with his gaunt appearance and zombie-like demeanor.

His insomnia isn't because he's not tired; on the contrary, he is exhausted. One day he is distracted by a fellow employee, an evil-smiling bald man named Ivan (John Sharian), and his lack of concentration causes another co-worker to lose an arm on one of the machines. When Trevor tells his bosses he was caught off-guard by Ivan's behavior, they tell him what we have already suspected, which is that there is no one named Ivan working at the factory.

Trevor fears he is losing his mind. He has a conversation with a diner waitress named Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) that mirrors one he'd had earlier with Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the prostitute who has become his de facto girlfriend. Is it deja vu? Did one of the conversations not actually happen? Or is there something else afoot here?

The screenplay, by Scott Kosar (whose other work has been on remakes: "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the upcoming "Amityville Horror"), oozes with creepiness that is not, when everything is laid out, just random (like, say, much of the creepiness in "The Grudge"): a refrigerator that oozes blood; a hangman game magneted to said refrigerator. Trevor's obsession with Ivan and the lengths to which he will go to find out who he is are astounding, and even absurd at first -- until you consider all the facts and realize he is behaving just as a person would in his situation.

Director Brad Anderson has previously given us the amusing romantic comedy "Next Stop Wonderland," some episodes of "The Shield" and "The Wire," and a horror flick called "Session 9" that I have not seen but that takes place in an abandoned mental hospital, so I am intrigued. It is probably the latter that gave him the most useful warmup for "The Machinist," and he works the new film's suspenseful elements like a virtuoso. He maintains a recurring motif of stick figures (including Trevor himself, of course), allows for several plausible explanations of the hangman game, and presents a vivid, hellish trip through an amusement-park ride that is utterly haunting.

Bale's performance as a stricken ghost of a man is compelling, though overshadowed a bit by his horrific appearance. I can't think of another instance of an actor doing so much to himself in order to look so bad. The effect is achieved, I guess: Trevor comes off as a pitiable, grotesque creature. Once he determines what's destroying him, perhaps he'll be able to get some sleep, and maybe a bite to eat.

[i](Note: This review was done without the cooperation of -- indeed, against the wishes of -- Paramount Classics, which denies online film critics access to press screenings of its movies. Apparently they're not sure this whole "Internet" thing is going to take off.)[/i]

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originally posted: 12/20/04 12:55:53
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/20/12 posttoastee Bale gives an impressive performance. Good stuff. 4 stars
12/04/08 Crabes Dostoïevsky would have been so proud of this powerful film ! 5 stars
9/30/08 L. Gary Captivating moroseness with a pedestrian ending. Bale shined througout. 4 stars
8/28/08 Alex Thorne A remarkable portrayal of the fragility of human sanity.Should have been oscar nominated 5 stars
5/02/07 Tracey Chambers anything with christian bale is worth a look 4 stars
4/14/07 cindy this is one good fucking movie. I can't believe how much weight he lost for this movie 5 stars
12/29/06 David Pollastrini boring, dull, etc. 2 stars
12/16/06 Minotaur AWESOME! I havent been able to get it out of my head for a week. 5 stars
9/24/06 teofisto great film, lost a lot of weight... true actor 4 stars
9/15/06 Beth Plaxco I can't believe the physical changes to make "the Machinist" after watcing "American "psych 5 stars
8/26/06 james burke Even if you see it coming it's still a fascinating film 5 stars
5/09/06 andy outstanding performances....thmbs up for bale..excellent progression of a wicked tale 4 stars
2/15/06 Carlos Idelone Dream-like like the Carnival of Souls 4 stars
1/09/06 Frenzy Just great 5 stars
12/03/05 sex trade worker christian bale is gorgeous 5 stars
11/20/05 Bestit 'Just an incredible film, no matter how you look at of the best in years. 5 stars
10/12/05 eddiejohns I almost didn't recognize Mr. Bale. He's wonderful and the movie is fantastic! 5 stars
9/30/05 ShabbaRanks Hands down the best film of the year! Amazing!!! 5 stars
9/30/05 Lori Excellent, gripping, unnerving, totally had me in its spell 5 stars
9/16/05 del malliaros this movie is fucking awesome and at the end christian bale is gorgeous 5 stars
9/06/05 Dirk I am a machinist anything about this trade would have to a horror 5 stars
8/31/05 Badhobbit Reznik's experiences are a nightmare come to life. Spellbinding! 5 stars
8/01/05 TheOthersFan AAAAAAAAAAAAUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CHRISTIAN BALE WHAT DID YOU DO TO YOURSELF?!?!!!!!!?! 2 stars
7/31/05 KOR Indrid: Don't think they were going for the "David Lynch thing." Try Hitchcock or Kafka. 5 stars
7/22/05 Indrid Cold Very well done, but somehow doesn't quite pull off the David Lynch thing. 4 stars
7/19/05 Kankasaur It's refreshing to see a film that impresses both the art-house and artless. 5 stars
7/12/05 Frenzy Great story, great acting 5 stars
7/12/05 paige i dont understand the symbolism everyone is taking about......they speak about symbolism??? 5 stars
7/11/05 Taylor Fladgate Creepy creepy creepy...very good, would have been good except for the untied ending 4 stars
7/11/05 Brian Feiler Great mystery/suspensefull thriller. Bale almost appears to be dissapearing before our eyes 5 stars
7/05/05 Kirsten way overrated gimmicky crapola 2 stars
6/29/05 Phil M. Aficionado Haunting/daunting story, great casting/acting/directing -- just a little "much" in places. 4 stars
6/26/05 malcolm hypnotizing and intense. who woulda thunk skinny-ass Bale could make a great batman? 4 stars
6/21/05 Jim Dennen intense study of Christian Bales' character from a year with no sleep. Great casting! 5 stars
6/21/05 David Hollands A haunting mind-bender. Bale is fantastic. Anderson's direction is incredible. 5 stars
6/15/05 Phil Hunt Interesting...but entertaining 4 stars
6/06/05 John Bale Not since Polanski's REPULSION such a devasting essay into a disturbed mind 5 stars
6/04/05 ANNA unsettling, disturbing, tragic, thought provoking, one of best films i have ever seen 5 stars
6/04/05 Hack-SAW Not too bad... But it reminded me of "Session 9", "The Salton Sea" & "Fight Club"!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/12/05 MCKROB Creepy.. Christian Bale is fantastic... 5 stars
4/20/05 Caiphn Dark, sometimes hard to watch, outcome not as obvious as some of the reviews say. 4 stars
2/17/05 ALDO Only watch it if you liked "Angel eyes" and "Fight club"...Otherwise stay away 3 stars
1/30/05 Tiffany A must see performance by Christian Bale 5 stars
1/21/05 Uncle Phucker Pretty bad ass movie. Not totally original but brilliant looking and fine acted by cast. 4 stars
12/14/04 Lord Durvok 2 Anderson pwns! But this one was kind of... eh. 4 stars
12/07/04 pin Crime and Punishment adaptation - given a nod, no credit 4 stars
11/03/04 f. fendt confession: good for the soul, good for the body 5 stars
10/26/04 Klaus Great movie. Very dark. Definitely one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. 5 stars
10/26/04 P.J. Dunlevy Christian Bale - wonderful, physical performance. 4 stars
10/22/04 natasha Readers' Digest condensed version of Dostoevsky meets Fight Club 3 stars
7/02/04 jeffrey Weird!!! Maybe I'll like it more the 2nd time. A little slow to watch 4 stars
2/20/04 josh christian bale is god. 5 stars
2/09/04 Jake Absolutely wonderful, I am a big fan of Session 9 and this film equals that. 5 stars
2/08/04 CC Crappy 1 stars
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  22-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 07-Jun-2005



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