DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Brad Anderson
Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, John Sharian, Michael Ironside, Larry Gilliard Jr., Reg E. Cathey, Anna Massey, Matthew Romero Moore
Writing Credits:
Scott Kosar

A little guilt goes a long way ...

Trevor Reznik has not slept for a year.

His every waking minute has become an unremitting nightmare of confusion, paranoia, guilt, anxiety and terror - each of which is part of an escalating series of clues that will lead to the source of his mysterious affliction in Brad Anderson's inventive psychological thriller The Machinist.

Box Office:
$5 million.
Opening Weekend
$64.661 thousand on 3 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.082 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 6/7/2005

• Audio Commentary with Director Brad Anderson
• “The Machinist: Breaking the Rules” Documentary
• 8 Deleted Scenes
• Trailer
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Machinist (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 31, 2005)

Doing a De Niro and putting on lots of weight for a movie role doesn’t seem all that impressive. There are plenty of fat slobs out there who chow down incessantly without an Oscar at the end of the tunnel, so why give Bob all the praise for shoving in those extra cheeseburgers? I used to be fat – where’s my Oscar?

Extreme weight loss for a part, however, takes things to a totally different level, especially when that effort results in the absurd skinniness achieved by Christian Bale for 2004’s The Machinist. Bale endangered his health – and apparently his ability to play the lead in 2005’s Batman Begins - when he dropped more than a third of his weight. If John Goodman sheds a third of himself, that just gets him down to normal levels, but the already-fit Bale turned into a literal shadow of himself.

At least he did it for a good cause. It’d suck to go to such extremes for a crappy movie, but The Machinist turns out to be an effective and distinctive flick.

Trevor Reznik (Bale) works at a machine shop. He displays obsessive concerns about cleanliness, he can’t sleep, and he shows extreme weight loss. Trevor doesn’t interact much with his co-workers as he prefers to stay alone most of the time. He does spend time with prostitute Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and he also visits an airport diner to chat with waitress Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) every night.

Trevor develops an obsession with a mysterious new co-worker named Ivan (John Sharian), and that fascination causes problems. One day Ivan gestures threateningly, and this distracts Trevor during a procedure. His loss of focus leads to a mechanical malfunction and co-worker Miller (Michael Ironside) loses his arm in an accident. When Trevor tells his bosses that Ivan diverted him, we learn that no such employee works at the shop.

This accelerates Trevor’s downward spiral as he starts to question hs own sanity. He also goes through bizarre events like strange notes that pop up on his refrigerator and a surprisingly graphic amusement park ride. All of this takes us through Trevor’s continued deterioration as we head toward an understanding of the truth.

Although I knew Bale slimmed down for Machinist, I still felt shocked at how emaciated he was. Bale isn’t just skinny - he’s Auschwitz thin. The movie makes sure we get more than a few shirtless shots of the actor, and these are disturbing to see.

One problem that comes with a stunt such as Bale’s weight loss is that it threatens to become too much of a spectacle. We may not get past his extreme physical appearance to accept him as a character. Happily, Bale’s fully-developed performance makes sure he avoids those pitfalls. He plays the part in an understated manner that doesn’t present the usual tics and mannerisms used to telegraph a character of questionable sanity. Clearly we know that Trevor has issues, but Bale doesn’t shove them down our throats.

Director Brad Anderson provides a similar tone for the rest of the movie. He creates a dark little world but not one that seems unrealistic. While the flick unquestionably deals with an alternate reality, it never turns self-conscious or arty. It’s a well-realized environment and setting that accentuates the issues in Trevor’s mind.

My only complaints relate to the film’s obvious Hitchcock vibe, mainly because the film wears too many of its inspirations on its sleeve. The main culprit comes from Roque Banos’s score. It demonstrates an extreme Bernard Herrmann influence that becomes a distraction. On its own, it’s a good score, but it crosses the line from homage and becomes more of a rip-off.

That weakness aside, The Machinist forms a rich psychological thriller that subtly depicts the mental deterioration of its main character. It doesn’t tip its hat too much as it keeps us in suspense much of the time. Abetted by a strong lead performance, the movie stands out as something unusual and involving.

Footnote: “Trevor Reznik” seems to be an odd play on “Trent Reznor”, the mastermind behind Nine Inch Nails. The names are too similar for this to be a coincidence, but I got no information on the subject in the DVD’s extras, as no one ever mentions the apparent homage.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

The Machinist appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though it presented mostly strong visuals, too many concerns cropped up to make this a consistently positive transfer.

No problems with sharpness occurred, however. At all times, the movie remained nicely detailed and distinctive. I noticed virtually no signs of softness. Jagged edges and shimmering didn’t interfere with matters, but edge haloes were apparent too frequently. In addition, the movie showed a surprising number of source flaws for a modern flick. I saw some specks and other blotches. These weren’t overwhelming, but they were more substantial than I’d expect.

One of the most desaturated films I’ve seen in quite a while, Machinist presented virtually no bright hues. Really, the only shots that went with anything more prominent that blue-grays were those that featured Ivan; the transfer offered some light reds during those scenes. Otherwise, this was a tremendously subdued palette. The movie replicated the visual design just fine, and blacks were acceptably deep and firm. Shadows could be somewhat thick, but they usually came across with good definition. Machinist lost most of its points due to edge enhancement and source flaws, but it remained generally good.

I didn’t expect much from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Machinist, but it proved surprisingly involving. While it never went hog wild, the soundfield opened matters up well. Shots at the airport diner or in the machine shop were the best developed, as they demonstrated nice use of all the speakers. Other scenes usually stayed with more general ambience, and they broadened the spectrum smoothly. Elements blended together neatly and moved across the channels with solid clarity and definition.

Across the board, audio quality appeared positive. Speech always stayed natural and concise, with no edginess or brittle tones. Music was dynamic and rich. The score offered tight highs and well-developed lows. Effects also came across as accurate and cleanly defined. Not much about the mix required a lot from my system, but it all came together so well that I thought it merited a “B+”.

When we head to the DVD’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Brad Anderson. He presents a very good running, screen-specific discussion. Two subjects dominate: location issues and story concerns. In the former category, Anderson tells us why they shot in Spain and all of the pros and cons of doing so. He also talks about adapting locations and trying to make the area look like the US. As for story, we learn nice insight into the themes and characters, and Anderson also tosses out many good trivia notes about things we might otherwise miss. He relates many influences, inspirations and references evident in the flick.

In addition to those areas, Anderson tells us a little about the cast and crew, Bale’s weight loss and approach to the role, the film’s look and cinematographic issues, and general production topics. Anderson maintains a light and lively demeanor despite the film’s darkness, and he makes this a winning and informative commentary.

Next comes a 25-minute and 18-second documentary called The Machinist: Breaking the Rules. It mixes movie shots, behind the scenes elements, and interviews with Anderson, writer Scott Kossar, producer Julio Fernandez, executive producers Antonia Nava and Carlos Fernandez, production designer Alain Bainee, director of photography Xavi Gimenez, and actors Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Aitana Sanchez Gijon. They discuss what Kossar wanted to do with the story and why Anderson hooked onto it, the weight loss issue, problems with financing, filming in Barcelona and location challenges, casting and the characters, stunts and effects, and various problems on the set.

Because Anderson’s commentary covers so much, we really don’t learn a ton here. However, the footage from the production helps make this show worth a look. We get to see many of the things Anderson discusses and also get a few different perspectives on things. It stands as a good little documentary despite some redundancy.

Eight Deleted Scenes last a total of 12 minutes and 25 seconds. Most of these provide more clues to the mystery. I think they tip off viewers more than necessary, but that might be a hindsight thing; it’s easier to see how they’d telegraph points once you know how the movie ends. “Trevor Confronts Mother at Cemetery” is probably the most interesting, but not in a good way; it turns a little maudlin. None of the other clips stand out as particularly strong.

A few of the scenes include optional commentary from Anderson. We get his remarks for “Trevor Tries to Skip Town” and “Trevor Confronts Mother at Cemetery”. He tells us his original intentions for the scenes and why he cut them. His remarks prove revealing.

In addition to the trailer for Machinist, the DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Mean Creek, Enduring Love, Schultze Gets the Blues and Suspect Zero.

Perhaps destined to be remembered for its lead actor’s extreme weight loss, The Machinist deserves a better fate than that. It provides a consistently intriguing mystery and psychological thriller abetted by strong acting and a creepy tone. The DVD offers decent picture with surprisingly effective audio and a short but effective set of extras. Though not for everyone, I recommend The Machinist to fans of dark dramas.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2 Stars Number of Votes: 40
3 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.