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Yes, this really
is the man who
would be Batman
Review written by: Alex Sandell
Christian Bale (current star of Batman Begins) is a man who would die for his art. Seeing him bent over a sink in this film, his entire backbone protruding from his body, makes Calista Flockhart look fat. Watching him is uncomfortable, in that it is hard to imagine that this actor wasn't going to drop dead from starvation. If he had shown up on one of those infomercials asking the haves to save a child for the "price of a cup of coffee per day," donations would have skyrocketed.
Mr. Bale plays Trevor Reznik, an insomniac who hasn't slept in a year. Maybe it's because I'm a fellow insomniac (I'm typing this review at 5:12 in the morning, after being up for nearly 48 hours straight) that this film creeped me out as much as it did. Chronic lack of sleep has actually caused me to put on weight -- a 24 hour IHOP can be an insomniac's best friend -- but I don't have paranoia and guilt causing my sleepless days and nights, like Trevor Reznik.
Reznik lives in a small, rundown apartment, finds his only companionship in a prostitute (and out of her, also) and a late-night waitress at an airport diner. During the day, he works as a machinist in a grueling factory job (is there any other kind?). After meeting up with an overweight man with an evil grin, who looks a lot like that dude on the cover of Warrant's debut album, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich , Reznik becomes convinced that there is a conspiracy against him.
While he's being stalked by the guy from the justifiably forgotten Warrant record, he's being told that the man doesn't exist. But he sees proof that the dude with the wicked smile is really there, when he finds a picture of the fat man and the floor manager at the factory Trevor works at together on a fishing vacation. The floor manager denies ever having heard of this Ivan fellow (played with shuddersome zeal by John Sharian).
Life only gets worse for Reznik when stickum notes begin mysteriously appearing on his refrigerator, with a new game of "Hangman" featured on every one. Each game leads Reznik to another clue, and further down the spiral toward overwhelming paranoia, panic and flat out fear. Soon he is being pursued by the cops, nearly murdered by co-workers and is even throwing himself in front of cars, in hopes of finding another clue to the mystery of who Ivan is and why the man seems determined to destroy Reznik's very existence.
This movie is intriguing from start to finish. Not since Memento has a cinematic mystery had me guessing throughout, without solving the entire thing before the credits rolled. The Machinist gave me those magical good kind of anxiety attacks. It's like a film the Coen Brothers would have made, back when they still made good movies. Brad Anderson has directed some of the best television shows to grace TV screens across the world (The Shield, Homicide) and his expertise as director shows throughout this entire film. And what a screenplay he was given to work with.
In-between writing surprisingly satisfactory remakes to horror classics such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror, screenwriter Scott Kosar managed to squeeze in some "me" time to write an original screenplay that he could call his very own (he's back to another horror remake, next). The Machinist shows that Kosar is one of the most promising screenwriters of the early 21st century. He's the kind of guy Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud to have in his corner.
Kosar's screenplay for The Machinist oozes with that stress-inducing "is it, or isn't it real?" type feel in a way that Academy Award winning films such as A Beautiful Mind, or overblown hype like The Village couldn't touch on. He doesn't cop out at the end, either. This was a guy who had a story to tell and didn't just tack a cockamamie finale on, so he could wash his hands of it and start work on his next film.
From the lighting, to the cinematography, the acting, to the directing, the ominous soundtrack, to the screenwriting -- The Machinist delivers. It's disappointing that it didn't deliver at the box-office. I'm hoping it will find a sizeable audience on video. It means enough to me that I'm willing to stay up and type a review on Ibuprofen for a migraine and 2 days with absolutely no sleep. If I can pull that off, the least you could do is check the movie out, right? You won't regret it.
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