Christian Bale chases phantoms and loses sleep in Brad Anderson's latest.

Ghost in the Machinist 

Christian Bale chases phantoms and loses sleep in Brad Anderson's latest.

It's the biopic of the year: Christian Bale is cadaverous industrial rocker Trent Reznor, prone to temper tantrums, brooding, inhabiting colorless environments, and keeping your parents awake all night as he fronts the heavy band known as Nine Inch Nails. Oh, wait ... that's not quite right. Christian Bale, in fact, is cadaverous industrial worker Trevor Reznik, prone to temper tantrums, brooding, inhabiting colorless environments, and staying awake all night as he operates heavy equipment that may, among other things, be used to drive nine-inch nails into solid objects. Screenwriter Scott Kosar, who penned the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the forthcoming Amityville Horror update, claims to be inspired by the likes of Roman Polanski, Wim Wenders and Feodor Dostoevsky (whose book The Idiot is prominently displayed onscreen), so it would have been nice if he had ventured further afield than his CD collection for a lead character. You half expect a female love interest to be named Mary Lynn Mansunn.

The movie in question is The Machinist, for which Bale starved himself down to 120 pounds. Early in the film, he flexes the visible skeleton under his skin for deliberate gross-out effect, and it works. (Bale presumably gained back all his weight to become Batman, but had he not, John Woo would need look no further for the perfect Skeletor in his just-announced He-Man movie.) The explanation is that Bale's Reznik has not slept in more than a year and is slowly wasting away as a result. He nods off for seconds at a time, but never longer. Colleagues suspect that he's on drugs, and his behavior is at times akin to that of a crystal-meth addict -- he scrubs his bathroom floor with a toothbrush, inch by inch.

One day at the factory, Reznik meets Ivan (John Sharian), a bald, beefy redneck with toes surgically grafted onto one of his hands. Ivan seems amiable enough at first, but the next day, he manages to distract Reznik enough to make him cause a major accident, severing the arm of a co-worker (Michael Ironside, for once playing the least frightening character onscreen). Turns out no one else saw Ivan or even believes he exists.

The Machinist requires a second viewing to be fully appreciated -- not because the twist is some out-of-left-field gimmick but because it adds additional depth to what you already know. But the first viewing is rough going, because it's tough to identify with Reznik. Only toward the story's end do we get any sense of what he was like before the insomnia and the massive weight loss. Anderson ultimately humanizes Reznik, but for a long time, The Machinist seems like it will collapse under the weight of a façade composed of everything a mopey teenager thinks is really cool.

The mopes get it right once in a while, though. A carnival ride on which Reznik takes a young child -- a ghost train filled with woefully inappropriate imagery -- is designed with more loving care (and more genuine scares) than the rest of the film. Screenwriter Kosar probably got the idea from his Rob Zombie CDs, but props to him and to production designer Alain Bainee (The Art of Dying).

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Facebook Activity

All contents ©2014 Kansas City Pitch LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of Kansas City Pitch LLC,
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.

All contents © 2012 SouthComm, Inc. 210 12th Ave S. Ste. 100, Nashville, TN 37203. (615) 244-7989.
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of SouthComm, Inc.
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.
Website powered by Foundation