Patrick McGinlay's Internet Tendency

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JUNE 16, 2005

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Actors are thin. Or they’re not. I forget. I only know this because every time I walk past a newsstand, I’m assaulted with pictures of actors who are either too thin, or not thin enough. Like many cynics, I try my best to turn away from such nonsense, or to bemoan it. So I wasn’t so impressed when I’d heard that actor Christian bale had shed 27 kilos from his otherwise regular frame for The Machinist. I just figured it was a gimmick to sell an otherwise mediocre film.

Upon actually seeing the flick, I’m feeling conflicted. Yes, the film is mediocre- steelworker Trevor Reznick hasn’t slept in a year. He meanders in and out of a dreamlike existence, caught between work, his dingy apartment, a hooker and an airport coffee shop. A slip up causes grievous injury to a co-worker, and he’s haunted by the incident and by a bizarre man-mountain named Ivan, who pops up from time to time to grin at him maniacally. It’s terribly atmospheric and it provides good squirms, but it goes nowhere, and very slowly. But far from being a gimmick, Bale’s terribly emaciated form proves the real star of the show.

At 185 cm and 50 kg, he looks like…well, like someone who hasn’t slept in a year. Reznik’s physical anguish is Bale’s own, and it’s a real gem of a performance. The supports are also very good. Jennifer Jason Leigh does her usual sleepy and vulnerable schtick as Stevie, a prostitute. Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, star of some foreign films where she probably gets her kit off, turns in a strong performance as a waitress who takes an almost maternal interest in Reznick. John Sharian is ugly, weird and effective as Ivan, who taunts Reznick throughout. The dialogue is sparing but strong, but there’s just not enough here to grab the average viewer.

The film is directed in similar visual tones to the first Matrix film- think a lot of sickly green, black and pale. And some vomit. It’s evocative, to say the least. Unfortunately, the pacing and the ending (which comes out of nowhere but isn’t what you’d call a twist, exactly) let down the performances. But if this film provides any indication of Bale’s intensity, this winter’s Batman Begins should be the flick of the year.

The Machinist: 6.5/10
Machine-separated chicken: salty
Deus Ex Machina: fancy schmancy
Mach 3 razors: sharp


THE MACHINIST stars Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanches-Gijon, John Sharian and Michael Ironside. It's rated M and runs 102 minutes.


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