Film Reviews

THE MACHINIST

By • Oct 22nd, 2004 •

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A Paramount Classics and Filmax Entertainment release
Running time 1:42 / MPAA rating: R

QUOTE: A brilliant, harrowing performance by Bale.

Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) hasn’t slept in a year and he looks it. Savaged by insomnia and starving, Reznik is on the brink of insanity. He knows it but is trying to fight through it. Even he is shocked as his weight falls below 120 pounds. He’s in trouble but what can he do?

Much has been written about Bale’s astonishing 63 pound weight loss to play this role. How else do you play a character dangling from a black cliff while going to work every day? If you are acting – which literally means taking on the role of someone else – we expect you to get as close to showing us the character as you can. It is not “showboating;” rather, it is doing what you are paid to do. Bale could easily do a romantic comedy or a Batman movie. There are choices, and I am thrilled Bale took this daring risk.

With Ben Affleck complaining in Details Magazine (November 2004: “Ben Affleck Is As Sick Of Himself As You Are”) over his over-exposed, addicted-to-his-celebrity career, I have this humble suggestion for the star who just punished us with SURVIVING CHRISTMAS: Why not try acting now?

Ben, why not change your pace and start romancing THE MACHINIST’S director?

As Reznik marks his weight loss each day, his appearance terrifies us. You haven’t seen anything like this on film. Yet, Reznik is still alive. You want to run away from him.

Slowly wasting away, Reznik has no friends. He has something of a relationship with Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a prostitute who sympathizes with him, and Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), a waitress at an airport diner he frequents every night for pie and coffee.

The filmmakers plunge us into Reznik’s world. Directed by Brad Anderson, written by Scott Kosar, and photographed superbly by Xavi Gimenez, Reznik’s world is cold, wet, and stripped of color. The stark look of the film crystallizes Reznik’s state of mind for us.

Strange things are happening to Reznik. There are cryptic post-its appearing on his refrigerator. He works as a drill-pressman in a machine shop. His fellow workers are freaked out by his rapid deterioration. One day he becomes distracted by a new worker, Ivan (John Sharian), and causes another machinist, Miller (Michael Ironside), to lose his arm. When Reznik is interviewed about the accident, he is told there is no new guy named Ivan.

Reznik finds Ivan. He’s creepy, jovial, and imaginary. Making contact with Ivan only drives Reznik deeper into his psychosis. This psychological thriller is so well done and thought through with such care, that, if it were not so damn hard looking at Bale without clothes on, I would see this film again.

You would think Reznik was crazy but Bale makes him sincere and so deeply troubled that you sympathize with him. You try to dope out the problem. He is clearly intelligent but whatever happened to him is changing reality. THE MACHINIST is a mesmerizing thriller, infused with a PSYCHO-like score, and wonderfully acted. And the resolution does not let us down. Anderson has such a strong vision that THE MACHINIST is one of the best films of the year.

Editor’s Notes: I found myself as visually rattled at Bale’s resemblance, when talking, to Rod Serling, as I was by his weight loss. And I hadn’t heard anyone comment on the sweet casting of Anna Massey (Raymond’s daughter) as Reznik’s landlady, she of Michael Powell’s PEEPING TOM (1960),Hitchcock’s FRENZY (1972), and many other chillers over the intervening years, looking older at 67, but still cute and sexy.


Credits:
Directed by Brad Anderson
Written by Scott Kosar
Photographed by Xavi Gimenez
Edited by Luis de la Madrid
Production designed by Alain Bainee
Music by Roque Banos
Produced by Julio Fernandez

Cast:
Trevor Reznik – Christian Bale
Stevie – Jennifer Jason Leigh
Marie – Aitana Sanchez-Gijon
Ivan – John Sharian
Miller – Michael Ironside
Jackson – Larry Gilliard
Jones – Reg E. Cathey
Mrs. Shrike – Anna Massey

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