‘The Machinist’ works hard but can’t get it together

The psychological thriller is a genre that has seen its fair share of screen time in recent years. Themes of paranoia, fear, and identity are as abundant as ever. Unfortunately, it seems as though some filmmakers have seized the opportunity of this new trend for the sole purpose of having an easy protagonist to pick on. The unbalanced psychosis of these characters is most often the catalyst of the film’s events. Directors and writers can now justify anything to the audience by making it clear to us that we’re inside the character’s head, seeing what the insane/ schizophrenic/ insomniac, etc…sees.

“The Machinist” is no exception to this new trend. An almost unrecognizable Christian Bale plays industrial worker Trevor Reznik, an insomniac who has not slept in over a year. This lack of sleep obviously takes its toll on the character, both physically (Bale lost about 60 pounds for the role) and mentally. In his sleep deprived state, the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur for Reznik, leading to several unfortunate events which cause him to suspect all around him of dissension and malice. The film becomes diluted with several inconsequential relationships and events; what we are ultimately left with is a morality tale, as the character must choose between salvation and damnation.

The first half of the film is quite engrossing, as we are only getting pieces of the puzzle. But as the film nears its climax, the viewer can really begin to identify with the insomniac, as the plot “twists” become more and more exhausted and uninspired. When all is said and done, this film plays out like assembling a Mr. Potatohead toy. They’re always fun to put together, but by the time it’s complete, it looks the same as every other Mr. Potatohead ever created.

It’s clear that a lot of talent went into this film that does not quite work out. Director Brad Anderson conceives several interesting visuals; composer Roque Banos’ score contributes to the noir-like atmosphere created, and Christian Bale adds to his consistently impressive repertoire of original performances.

This film also contains one of the most inventive and disturbing haunted house rides ever envisioned. In my opinion, the blame for the underwhelming outcome of the film should be placed on screenwriter Scott Kosar, who has also contributed to another recent unoriginal trend of re-making horror movies. He penned both the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Amityville Horror” remakes.

Any fans of Christian Bale should see “The Machinist” solely for his performance. Those who dislike Bale may derive pleasure by watching him suffer for almost two hours. The actor will be seen next in the highly anticipated “Batman Begins”, in which he plays Gotham’s caped crusader, donning a costume which probably outweighs a soaking wet Trevor Reznik…. holding an anvil.

“The Machinist” opens this Friday at Cinema du Parc.

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