The Machinist – Amazon Prime Week

The Machinist is currently available on Amazon Prime.

An industrial worker who has not slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity “

“Who are you?”

The Machinist represents method acting at its finest. Christian Bale lost over sixty pounds to play this role, dropping all the way down to 110. He wanted to lose more but the producers became concerned about his health. He had no more than an apple, a can of tuna, and a cup of black coffee each day for months and that was it. He even took up smoking to fight the hunger cravings. Immediately after The Machinist, Bale had to turn around and bulk up for Batman Begins. Now that is a dedicated actor. Be right back – I am off to grab a snack.

Christian Bale does a fantastic job of playing Trevor Reznick. In addition to his increasing weight loss and insomnia, Reznick suffers from a bizarre set of behaviors often associated with meth addiction: obsessive-compulsive disorder, paranoia, an inability to get his hands clean – even using bleach, and a concern that he might be hallucinating.

Bale is ably supported by co-star Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh underwent her own metamorphosis when she went down to 86 pounds to play an anorexic in The Best Little Girl in the World (1981). Here she plays Stevie, a down on her luck prostitute. Aitana Sanchez-Gijon is good as a sympathetic waitress. John Sharian is the mysterious Ivan.

Poor character actor Michael Ironside. In Total Recall (1990), he plays a villain who loses his arms to hero Schwarzenegger. In Starship Troopers (1997), he loses an arm in the military. Well let us just say that maybe he is typecast here.

Writer Scott Kosar turned in a brilliant script for The Machinist. Unfortunately the Hollywood studios felt it was too dark and Kosar and director Brad Anderson could not get it filmed. They finally found backing in Spain so, in spite of the whole film being in English with mostly English and American actors, it was filmed entirely in Barcelona with tons of props to make it seem like Los Angeles.

Literature majors will find much to love here as the script is an amalgamation of, not to mention an homage to, the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Nods to Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Double are featured in the plot, characters and visually.

Brad Anderson and cinematographer Xavi Gimenez make wonderful use of the 2.35 scope and give the film a wonderful modern expressionistic look. The score by Roque Banos is evocative of Bernard Herrman, particularly in the use of the theremin. These are all in support of the wonderful story and performance of Christian Bale.

People Watch: Reg E. Cathey, who plays Jones in The Machinist, previously worked with Bale on American Psycho as Al, the derelict. He would go on to play Norman Wilson on The Wire.

The Alphabet Killer – The Killer Inside Me week

This is The Killer Inside Me week. The Alphabet Killer is currently available on instant Netflix.

PASS: The Alphabet Killer (2008) – Rated R for some language and violence.

“In this psychological thriller inspired by true events, Eliza Dushku (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) stars as Megan Paige, a dogged police investigator obsessed with capturing a demented serial killer targeting young girls in Rochester, N.Y. Haunted by the grisly rape and murder of a 10-year-old victim, Paige begins to suffer hallucinations that culminate in a suspense-filled climax. Cary Elwes and Timothy Hutton co-star.”

“Mostly the job is to ask questions. The frustrating part, the part that drives you crazy, is that the people you really want to talk to are dead.”

Poor Eliza Dushku. She just cannot seem to find the right role. She was fantastic as the “bad” vampire slayer Faith in 20 episodes of Buffy and a half dozen of Angel. Realizing her potential, especially in the genre market, executives cast her as the lead in Tru Calling.

Tru Calling did not work out – two seasons and it was not very good. Joss Whedon then cast her as the sexy lead in Dollhouse. Fox executives, perhaps learning from the debacle of canceling Firefly early… and Family Guy… and Futurama…you get the picture, extended Dollhouse for a second season but ratings got worse.

In between series, Eliza gets roles in various movies. Here she has the starring role as Megan Paige, a homicide detective who does not so much do detective work as hallucinate what the victim went through. Poor Eliza even breaks her cardinal rule of no nudity here and is briefly topless.

Eliza gets backup here from a few other actors who did not quite make it. Cary Elwes plays her boyfriend and boss. Cary has gone from being Westley (/sigh) in The Princess Bride to being the victim Dr. Gordon in Saw, a role he will apparently reprise in (ugh) Saw VII.

Timothy Hutton, in spite of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Ordinary People, also bounces back and forth between movie roles (mostly supporting) and starring television roles. He plays Richard Ledge here and is currently Nathan Ford on Leverage.

Genre actors Tom Noonan and Michael Ironside provide good support as fellow police officers and Bill Moseley appears as a suspect. The writer Tom Malloy also puts in an appearance as Officer Steven Harper.

Unfortunately the writing is not very good. Megan keeps acting more and more insane solely in order to set up the ending. That anyone would let her near an investigation twitching like a junkie in need of a heroin fix is beyond ridiculous.

MINOR SPOILER: One of the main problems is that if you watch a lot of movies, you will realize exactly who the killer is within minutes of their appearance. There are actually three easy to spot reasons why this person is the killer so the script is actually full of overkill in this regard.

Also do not even get me started on the whole Based on a True Story fiasco. If you trace things far enough back most are based on a true  story – that is why stories resonate emotionally – because they are grounded in reality in some fashion. Of course this story has almost nothing in common with the events that inspired it.

The actual ending is pretty (unintentionally) hilarious.

The film as a whole is not bad but neither is it good. Give this one a pass.

People Watch: Carl Lumbly plays Dr. Ellis Parks here but you may remember him best as Marcus Dixon on Alias.