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The Machinist | Review

Not much Meat on the Bones

Actor wins ultimate weight loss challenge but was it really worth it?

Not to be confused as a VH1 special on The Carpenters, director Brad Anderson has a big appetite for dementia, while his newest definitely looks the part, but it psychologically only serves up warmed-up leftovers.

After his reality game show gone wrong in Session 9, Anderson’s The Machinist is a sickening-to-look at portrait that makes a credible case against friends of PETA. In dire need of more than just that elusive 15-minute power nap – blue-collar, heavy machine operator named (Christian Bale) is a couple of work shifts away from insanity,– apparently, it takes a full 300-plus to really lose it. But what’s keeping this man from getting some Z’s and why is this man so thin? And who is this bald-headed ghost he eludes him? are the core matters in Scott Alan Kosar’s house of horrifying hallucinations and paranoia.

In a sort of self-destructive, search-for-self with yellow post-it’s a la Memento mode and some homage-like to narrative elements felt in Hitchcock’s worlds, this is an unnerving, ballsy enough effort to merit a “great try” status. For those who might have caught the actor in his supreme, buff role in American Psycho; Bale makes the type of physical transformation that is nothing short than remarkably astonishing or either terribly excessive. Thankfully, Bale’s performance supersedes the introductory bits that focus entirely on his grotesque figure, but it’s unfortunate that Anderson missed out on using the full physical transformation as a premium for the character’s mental anguish. Stylistically speaking, the film is supported by some nice atmospheric visuals – cinematographer Xavi Gimenez’s gives this an early Fritz Lang feel – the blue tint somehow accentuates the psychotic, 24/7 nocturnal purgatory that debilities the protagonist and gives a shine to body parts, missing limbs, the actor’s 60-plus shed pounds and beautifully featured decaying body.

Unlike the protagonist’s workshop abilities, this horror show lacks precision – considering the size of the film, Anderson manages to stir up a perfect look and Bale makes a valiant effort, but overall there is a failure in creating an appropriate tone that truly, creeps the skin. Perhaps the character’s state of mind and hallucinatory transitions are too self-aware, each episode feels like a succession of blank events that only minimally addresses his interior frame of mind. While The Machinist might not be entirely gripping, you can’t help but be completely curious until the end.

Rating 2 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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