Batman? Try the Scarecrow. Christian Bale purportedly lost 65 pounds for his role as The Machinist, and, boy, does it show. In a film that swims in unease, Bale is the creepiest special effect of all, jutting collarbones and vertebrae this way and that. If nothing else, he has done for eating disorders here what highway-gore films of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s did for Driver’s Ed. And the movie itself? Well, I’m not sure if it (or any film, for that matter) would be worth Bale’s gruesome physical transformation, but The Machinist is a pretty solid foray into puzzle-movie territory, one that establishes a grim, unsettling mood early on and maintains it throughout.
Bale’s Trevor Reznick — Given the explicit nods to Dostoevsky throughout, the name resemblance to NIN’s frontman is probably also intentional — splits his time among his job, an airport cafe, and the bed of his favorite hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh, less show-offy than usual.) He shambles through the world without food, sleep, or even much color (everything, other than the occasional flash of red, has that institutional-green Matrix cast to it.) And, as the film goes on, Reznick tries to make sense of the increasingly strange events that befall him…events which I can’t really talk about without giving the game away, but that may involve conspiracies, murders, impending madness, and/or all of the above.
I have to say I was a bit dismayed by the way the pieces ended up fitting together in the end, but The Machinist is more about the journey than the destination anyway, and as a sinister tone poem the film works quite well…not a masterpiece by any means, but definitely a respectable night at the movies. Now, Alfred, could you please bring Mr. Wayne here a few cheeseburgers?