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The Machinist
DVD disk
06.07.2005 By: Scott Weinberg
The Machinist order
Director:
Brad Anderson

Actors:
Christian Bale
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Michael Ironside

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A shambling and emaciated shell of a man (who hasn't slept in over a year) finds himself involved with murders, machines, and madness when a few curious "clues" begin popping up in his apartment.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Hoo boy, yeah, this is a good movie! (And I'm not doling out one single plot point, so if you're a spoiler-monkey, you might just want to skip out right now.) By now you've doubtlessly heard the stories about how leading man Christian Bale lost more than 60 pounds to play the role of zombie-like humanoid Trevor Reznik, and Bale's work here is absolutely one for the record books, but there's so much more to The Machinist than one skinny guy delivering a stunning performance.

If the main course of The Machinist is Bale's performance, make sure you save some room for Scott Kosar's brain-crackling screenplay and Brad Anderson's canny and confident directorial touches. Side dishes include a phenomenal performance from the always-awesome Jennifer Jason Leigh, a decent dose of Michael Ironside -- doing some of his best work in a decade -- and a wonderfully Herrmann-esque* score by Roque Banos.

(* to those readers who might be under the age of 15: "Herrmann-esque" means it sounds like a great old Hitchcock / film-noir thriller.)

I first saw The Machinist at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, was promptly blown effortlessly away by the thing, and left the fest with really high hopes that the movie could find an "arthouse audience" of some sort -- but unfortunately the flick barely grossed one million bucks in North America. So now's your chance to get in on the ground floor (OK, the second floor) of what I consider to be a Cult Classic waiting to happen. The Machinist is smart and slick and greasy and grungy. It's dark and ugly one minute, and bizarrely humorous the next. And while you may see some of the twists and turns coming, they're constructed in such a satisfying way that you won't really mind.

Between the supremely entertaining Session 9 and now The Machinist, I hereby consider myself a big fat fanboy of writer/director Brad Anderson, and I can't wait to see what the guy cooks up next. (Word is that his "next" is a remake of Romero's The Crazies ... which is just fine by me!)

THE EXTRAS
First up is an audio commentary with director Brad Anderson. I suspect this track could have been juiced up just a bit with the inclusion of a few more participants (let's get Christian Bale and screenwriter Scott Kosar in there!), but the director does a fine job of divulging all sorts of background information. Might be worthy of note to only the hardcore Machinist fans out there, but it's a B+ yak-track either way.

The Machinist - Breaking the Rules is a rather excellent "making of" featurette that runs about 25 minutes. We get details about the earliest reactions to Kosar's screenplay, how Anderson and Bale got involved, the difficulties in making an "American" film feel authentic while shooting in Spain, interview segments from cast & crew... Damn good piece here, and one that answers a lot of questions about a movie that's pretty darn mysterious. There's also a collection of 8 deleted scenes, some of which could best be described as "extended" and "alternate" seqeunces. Using the "play all" function the extra scenes total just about 10 minutes in length. The scenes are labeled as Trevor Visits Mysterious Grave, Alternate Intersection Crosscut with Burning Paper, Pensive Trevor (Alternate Transition to Airport), Stevie's Mysterious "John", Alternate Chase Ending Revealing Chimneys, Trevor Tries to Skip Town*, Trevor Confronts Mother at Cemetery*, and Alternate Version of Holding Cell. (* These two scenes can be played with commentary by Brad Anderson.)

Rounding out the platter is the theatrical trailer for The Machinist, as well as a bunch of previews for Mean Creek (also damn good), Enduring Love (worth a rental), Suspect Zero (which I pretty much hated), and Schultze Gets the Blues (on my Netflix queue!)

FINAL DIAGNOSIS
The Machinist is the best mind-f*ck thriller since Memento, and it's a movie that I bet will find a strong and ardent fanbase over the next ten years. Paramount Home Video delivers the flick with superlative audio/video merits, plus a solid handful of illuminating extra goodies. I say just buy it now, because if you rent the flick and love it -- it's absolutely one for the collection.
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