The payoff is not half a good as the promise the premise makes.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"The Machinist is one of those classic stories in which a man goes out on a quest to solve a troubling mystery that ultimately leads right back to himself," says director Brad Anderson. Mix Memento and Insomnia with The Tenant and The American Friend and you will have some notion of a dark brew of a film that has more calories than nutrition, whose payoff is not half a good as the promise the premise makes.
Trevor (Christian Bale) is a gaunt (Bale lost 60 pounds, down to 121), sleepless machinist whose life is unraveling even faster after his inadvertent responsibility for an industrial accident. Because he hasn't slept in a year and his refrigerator oozes blood, it's fairly certain his mind is on its own trip. As the story progresses, he becomes more disoriented while the film slips from extreme psychodrama to middling thriller and then relatively nothing in the end.
Bale's publicity for losing the pounds (the women in the film tell him, ''If you were any thinner, you wouldn't exist'') can be compared to De Nero's gain For Raging Bull and CharlizeTheron's makeover for Monster, but in Bale's case not a positive since his role is not as rich as the other two's.
The women in the story have been given the memorable roles: Jennifer Jason Leigh as the hooker girlfriend, Stevie, has perfected the heart of gold thing; Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) a late-night waitress, is a naturally sympathetic beauty who takes a shine to him: "You're lonely," she tells Trevor. "When you work graveyard shift as long as I have, you get to know the type." We do get to know his type of psychotic from films, but only his demons (There's a fun house named Route 666!) have any real interest. He remains for me only a malnourished neurotic with guilt to satisfy the most demanding Catholic bishop.
"If you were any thinner," Stevie tells him, "you wouldn't exist." If the story were any thinner, it would be machine-gunned to death.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.