"The Machine," directed by Peter Atencio, presents a fictionalized version of Bert Kreischer, the stand-up comedian known for his outrageous and hilarious storytelling. While the film promises a blend of action and comedy, it falls short in some areas while delivering unexpected surprises in others.
The story takes place 23 years after the original inspiration, with Kreischer (played by himself) facing personal challenges and the arrival of his estranged father, Albert (Mark Hamill). The plot kicks into high gear when the ghost of Kreischer's past, a murderous mobster named Irna (Iva Babic), arrives to kidnap him and force him to atone for his crimes. Alongside his father, Kreischer must navigate a war between sociopathic crime families while attempting to find common ground.
One of the film's notable drawbacks is its pacing. "The Machine" overstays its welcome with a runtime of 112 minutes, especially for a comedy. Just as you anticipate its conclusion, it continues for another 30 minutes, testing the audience's patience. The jokes also don't land as frequently as desired and attempts at one-liners often fall flat. This inconsistency in humor diminishes the film's effectiveness as a comedy.
Furthermore, the movie struggles to strike a balance between mean-spirited and heartfelt moments, leaving viewers emotionally detached from the characters. The subplot involving a potential romance between young Kreischer (Jimmy Tatro) and a classmate feels disconnected from the main narrative and adds little value. The film's tonal shifts create an awkward and disjointed viewing experience, making it challenging to fully invest in the characters' journey.
Despite these flaws, "The Machine" does have its redeeming qualities. Once the story takes the characters to Russia, the film becomes more enjoyable. The action sequences are surprisingly well-shot and choreographed, with a notable absence of excessive quick cuts. Atencio allows the violence to play out, adding a visceral edge to the film. The technical aspects, including cinematography by Eigil Bryld, provide a visually pleasing experience, especially when the characters explore Russia's grand palaces and quaint villages.
Bert Kreischer brings his on-stage persona to the film, capturing both the charm and the flaws of his real-life self. Portraying Kreischer as an oafish yet well-intentioned character, he embodies a Homer Simpson-type figure. While this aligns with Kreischer's established comedic style, it occasionally undermines the film's attempts at more nuanced and heartfelt moments.
Mark Hamill delivers a serviceable performance as Albert, but the chemistry between Kreischer and Hamill falls short, feeling like a mismatched pairing. On the other hand, Jimmy Tatro excels in his role as a younger version of Kreischer, showcasing his comedic timing and mannerisms effectively. However, the true standout of the film is Iva Babic as Irna, the badass femme fatale. Babic seamlessly embodies the character's intensity and delivers genuinely hilarious one-liners. Her chemistry with Kreischer shines through their banter, especially in the memorable scene where Kreischer removes shrapnel from Irna's leg.
In conclusion, "The Machine" is a mixed bag, offering both highs and lows. While it struggles with pacing issues, a lack of consistent humor, and disjointed tonal shifts, it finds success in its well-executed action sequences and technical craftsmanship. Bert Kreischer brings his signature comedic style to the film, although it occasionally clashes with attempts at deeper emotional moments. Mark Hamill's performance falls short of establishing strong chemistry with Kreischer, while Jimmy Tatro impresses as the younger version of the protagonist. Iva Babic steals the show with her portrayal of Irna, showcasing her versatility as a formidable and humorous character.
"The Machine" may not be the comedy gem one would expect from a stand-up comedian's film debut, but it offers a wild and occasionally enjoyable ride. It will appeal most to fans of Bert Kreischer and those who appreciate action-comedy hybrids.
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