“The Machinist” is an incredibly clever exercise in gimmick over plot, but it is compelling.
The Machinist (2004, Blu-ray)
Directors: Brad Anderson
Writers: Scott Kosar (written by)
Features: * BD Exclusive Featurette: Manifesting the Machinist (23 minutes, HD) * BD Exclusive Featurette: Hiding in Plain Sight (14 minutes, HD) * Featurette: Breaking the Rules (25 minutes, SD) * Commentary by Brad Anderson * Deleted Scenes (SD) * Trailer
Christian Bale ... Trevor Reznik
Jennifer Jason Leigh ... Stevie
Aitana Sánchez-Gijón ... Marie
John Sharian ... Ivan
Michael Ironside ... Miller
Larry Gilliard Jr. ... Jackson
Reg E. Cathey ... Jones
THE MACHINIST, a look back:
Below you will find my original review of "The Machinist." This review came early in my career here at DVDFuture and I was still attempting to find a style and a voice that best suited me and the site. Among my struggles, I had difficulty separating the advertising campaign of a film, from the film itself, which here, immensely tainted my first viewing of "The Machinist."
Because I'm one who's willing to admit error, I've decided to write this amendment to the review, rectifying my points. I'm still leaving the review below because it does accurately convey my first, very negative, reaction to the film -- a reaction some might agree with.
Looking at the film again, however, I found an intense, mesmerizing, satisfying drama about a man coming to grips with his guilt. "The Machinist" is a taut, layered, complex film that uses mysterious plot conventions and cliches and turns them on their heels to convey a fascinating story.
It's Christian Bale at his very best, not his worst as I originally describe. Bale carries his flaws on his shoulders and with it, his weight loss becomes a character, an ironic weight he must carry.
The picture is gimmicky, as I state below, but it's a well-used gimmick coupled with a solid script and sharp, razor-edged direction from Brad Anderson.
If you haven't seen "The Machinist" yet, I wholly recommend it. Pay no attention to the moron who wrote the review below...
2009 Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: A-
Film Value: A-
“The Machinist” is an exercise in gimmick over plot. The gimmick, if you’re not aware, is that the film’s star, Christian Bale, lost well over 60 pounds. Trimmed to a narrow 130 pounds from his original 190, Bale is downright skeletal. Unfortunately, this gimmick doesn’t go beyond just that—a gimmick. It’s something to get you into the theater so that you can “oooo” and “ahhh” at Bale’s ghastly physique and before you figure you out that you’ve been had, it’s too late. They’ve already taken your money.
Bale plays Trevor Reznik (a throwback to NIN’s Trent Reznor). Trevor is suffering from insomnia. His mind and body have been suffering from the illness for more than a year, rendering him dangerously thin and irritable. In a state of fatigue, Trevor falls back onto a machine at work one day, slicing the arm off of one of his colleagues. Even though his colleague recovers and forgives Trevor, he soon begins to believe that the there is a conspiracy against him at the factory he works at.
Trevor seeks out a man named Ivan, who witnessed the accident in spite of claims that he does not exist. Feeling that Ivan is the key to the conspiracy, Trevor jumpstarts a dangerous game of cat and mouse to uncover the truth behind this conspiracy, the end results of which will change the course of Trevor’s life forever.
The plot and twists of “The Machinist” can be best described as “The Matrix” meets “Fight Club” meets “Donnie Darko” meets “Insomnia” meets “Memento” meets “The Sixth Sense” meets “The Twilight Zone” meets anything made by Alfred Hitchcock pre-1973. Now, that’s far from a compliment. In truth, “The Machinist” tries to be like those movies, and on many levels, it succeeds. But director Brad Anderson and writer Scott Kosar end up stealing from most of those films, making their own film hollow and predictable.
It’s very disappointing because I had no idea what to expect coming out of the first act. At first I thought that maybe Trevor had reached a state of consciousness that enabled him to see other worldly activities such a demonic possession and spiritual chaos. “The Machinist” doesn’t provide though. Rather it turns itself into an ‘R’ rated Lifetime movie of the week with a twist that a fan of any film I mentioned above should be able to figure out before the end of the second act.
Bale’s performance is less than stellar despite his thin body structure. This is a performance that’s likely to garner praise simply because of Bale’s discipline as an actor. He looks horrifying. When we finally see him restored to his original state, it’s difficult to recognize him as the same person. His weight loss would be incredible if he was a fat man on a diet, but he’s in a film. Weight loss shouldn’t be a factor in praising a performer’s talents.
Bale’s weak performance isn’t entirely his fault though. He’s just not given anything to do, other than look thin and confused. He succeeds at both actions, but he never really transcends beyond that barrier. We never feel like he’s suffering from insomnia like Edward Norton’s Jack in “Fight Club”. He looks peeked and worn out, but none of it is ever truly convincing.
“The Machinist” ultimately turns into a shake and bake cult hit. And while the film does succeed at being creepy, I hope that it backfires. Cult films should not be manufactured to be cult; they should just sprout up and exist. To defy that method would destroy the meaning of a cult film. Most cult films where low budgeted mainstream films that hoped to take off, but were too unusual to cater to a large audience. “The Machinist” is a hard sell, no doubt, but much like “Memento," it’s a weak and unoriginal story with an incredible gimmick. Don’t be conned by films like this. They taint the once great image of cult films.
2004 Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: B-
Film Value: D+
"The Machinist" is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a dual-layered BD50 disc, consuming 40 gigs of space. While "The Machinist" has been on Blu-ray in Germany for some time now, this is America’s first look at the 1080p transfer, and it’s a gorgeous presentation, topping the DVD in every way. This is a very stark, contrasted picture with mild monochromatic shades fueling the style and context of the picture. Thankfully, this BD release doesn’t falter in providing fans with a near-reference presentation.
That said, there are some problems with the transfer. First up, a noticeable haze of both digital noise and film grain is apparent on the print throughout the feature. I also detected some mild posterization during indoor sequences, most noticeable during Rezniks’ argument with Stevie in her apartment. A few specks of dust and dirt occasionally pop up every now and then as well. Make no mistake, this is a great presentation, but minor flaws knock a few points off the rating of this transfer.
Audio choices are English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 with English, Portuguese, French and Spanish subtitles and English captions for the hearing impaired. This TrueHD mix is lively and engaged with an impressively balanced score that fills the room in virtually every scene. LFE is a touch dampened throughout, but it does kick into gear when necessary (the carnival ride, for instance). Dialogue is occasionally a bit muffled and hard to hear, but only during more action-orientated sequences. Even with a few flaws in tow, this presentation is cleaner and clearer than anything that’s come before. Fans should be pleased.
Paramount brought "The Machinist" to DVD a few years back and it was a fairly mediocre release. While this is a port of that release (feature reviewed below), Paramount has also churned out a few new added goodies (found in the HD Content section). Extras include:
• Featurette: Breaking the Rules (25 minutes, SD) -- This is a pretty brief, but moderately insightful EPK featurette.
• Commentary -- Brad Anderson flies solo in this informative, meaty track packed tight with on-set production tidbits, trivia and story genesis. Well worth a listen.
• Deleted Scenes (SD) -- Eight rightfully cut, way-too-obvious, deleted scenes top off this DVD port.
• Trailer (SD)
While Paramount does offer two new featurettes, exclusive to this release, the studio misses an opportunity to include a digital copy, BD-Live extras, a text-based trivia track, a PIP track or a new commentary with the cast and/or crew. What a shame. Features include:
• Featurettes (27 minutes, HD) -- First up, fans are treated to two BD-exclusive features. First, there’s a fascinating featurette (“Manifesting the Machinist”) that explores Bales haunting image as well as the narrative behind "The Machinist." While the feature is lacking Bale’s perspective, there are a number of interesting observations made throughout to make this featurette worth looking at.
The second featurette (“Hiding in Plain Sight”) discusses the film’s principal twist and how that twist worked into the narrative, constantly manipulating the audience. Again, there’s just enough insight here to make this featurette worthwhile, even though Bale’s perspective is sorely missed.
This single-disc BD release comes packed in a blue elite case featuring the film’s terrible re-release artwork.
I take back many of my original comments. "The Machinist" is a haunting movie, perfectly performed by Bale and brought to life through Scott Kosar’s daring script and Brad Anderson’s sharp Hitchcockian direction. This BD tops the previous DVD is every way imaginable, providing a better A/V presentation and a few exclusive special features. If you love this movie, this is one disc well worth owning.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: C+
Recommendation: Worth owning.
On Blu-ray: May 19, 2009.
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...666 (oooh, spooky -- fitting review, though)...
----R. L. Shaffer