The Machinist Review

by Harvey S. Karten (harveycritic AT cs DOT com)
October 23rd, 2004


Reviewed by Harvey S. Karten
Paramount Classics
Grade: A-
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Written by: Scott Kosar
Cast: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-
Gijon, John Sharian, Michael Ironside
Screened at: Angelika, NYC, 10/24/04

If you're like me and you compulsively read the health columns on the web, you may have noted recent statements that we human beings are hardwired to need eight hours of sleep. These reports also indicate that thanks to late-night TV–Leno, Letterman and company–a large number of our fellow Americans do not get nearly enough sleep. Those who are seriously deprived, who try to live on four hours a night or fewer, are likely to have psychotic breaks in the form of hallucinations–something like daydreaming but more graphic. Such is the situation in extremis of one Trevor (Christian Bale), who works at a metal foundry of some sort (do they still have those in the U.S.?) and looks not only tired by gaunt. He is positively skeletal, just possibly the result of a Christian Bale starvation diet that resulted in the guy's loss of sixty-three pounds for the role. The definitive American Psycho, Bale is ideally cast for his role in Brad Anderson's "The Machinist," and in fact his amazing weight loss is not likely to have been in vain, judging by what I noted at a screening on opening day in New York's Angelika Theater. The Angelika specializes in arthouse fare, the indies, and while "The Machinist" has the quirky markings familiar to patrons of indies, the crowd this night at that theater was made up not only of the usual suspects but also of young people who are possibly more at home with the Sony Xbox than with the machinations of arthouse films.
Who can blame them? Christian Bale's performance is mesmerizing. He's magnetic. He's Oscar caliber in his visceral portrayal of a fellow who is "losing it" rapidly because he refuses to see a doctor or to take Seconal or some other miracle of modern pharmacy that could alleviate the condition.
As Trevor Reznick, Bale inhabits the role of a blue-collar worker in a machine shop with a demanding foreman who could drive even a well-rested prole to madness. In a freak accident in which Trevor is distracted by a strange, bald fellow worker who makes a threatening gesture to him, he pushes a button that leads an associate, Miller (Michael Ironside) to lose his left arm. From that point he is ostracized by the entire work force, yet continues to plug away at perhaps the only job he knows. He is comforted by two women, however. One is Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a hooker who has a soft spot in her, er, heart for him, and by Marie (Altana Sanchez-Gijon), whose airport coffee shop he visits regularly at 1:30 a.m. for a pie and coffee. He is well-liked, as well, by his landlady, Mrs. Shike (Anna Massey) as he pays his rent on time.
The horror of Trevor's descent into paranoid schizophrenia is punched up by Roque Banos's eerie original score, but while Scott Kosar's story ia given Hitchcockian undertone by director Brad Anderson, the real hero is Mr. Bale, who is in virtually every frame, his bulging eyes and near invisibility at just 119 pounds give him the look of a man who has just been freed from Auschwitz
Rated R. 98 minutes © Harvey Karten
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