The Machinist (2004)

Much like the hype surrounding Bridget Jones's Diary, most of the media attention on The Machinist has focused on the weight of the principal actor: Christian Bale lost a staggering 63lb -- by eating only a can of tuna and an apple, diet fans -- to play Trevor Resnik. Yet while Zellweger went from Hollywood thin to average-sized and back again, Bale's weight loss is truly scary. He barely looks alive, a bag of skin that only just manages to keep his bones and veins on the inside. The image never stops being grotesque. No matter how many times Bale wanders around without a shirt, there's no point where the wincing stops.

Resnik is a chronic insomniac; he hasn't slept for a year. He's dangerously thin; he works a physically demanding, dirty, unpleasant job, and his only friends are Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), a waitress who works the graveyard shift at the airport cafe, and Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), your friendly neighbourhood hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold. Things are about to get worse, though: he makes friends with a rather vulgar man by the name of Ivan (John Sharian) at work but finds the management completely deny his existence; he causes one of his colleagues to lose an arm in a brutal work-place accident; and on a trip to a theme park with Marie and her son, he manages to give the kid an epileptic fit. On top of all that, someone is fucking around in his apartment: a cryptic post-it note, featuring a half-drawn hangman and the letters _ _ _ _ E R appears on his fridge.

The Machinist appears, at first glance, to be a remarkably bleak (possibly even "gritty") movie, all grime and retribution, but soon reveals itself to be a far more sinister creature: as Trevor's mental state unravels throughout the movie tt's difficult not to feel the twist coming. The Machinist is like a little kid, jumping around and screaming that it's got a secret, and it bets you can't guess what it is, can you, can you? Predictably, Ivan is a figment of Trevor's imagination; a manifestation of his guilt trying to provoke him into turning himself in for a crime he committed a year ago. Or, maybe not a year ago, since your average person would die without sleeping long before a year was up, but frankly it's hard to care. Either Ivan, Marie and Stevie are all hallucinations of Trevor's waking mind, or his encounters with them occur when he's actually asleep, but if you've seen Fight Club, it's really not a point worth arguing. The hangman game particularly irks me because since when is that how you play hangman? I guess if you're just playing with yourself (and in this movie, innuendo most definitely intended) it makes no difference anyway.

While Christian Bale will almost certainly recieve awards nominations for this role, I can't help but wish he'd just not bothered. The Machinist is a grim, ugly, and ultimately incredibly dull waste of time. It's not like me to bestow anything vaguely resembling praise on Chuck Palahniuk, but seriously, just watch Fight Club again instead of wasting your time and money on this worthless excuse for entertainment.

IMDB link

No comments: