I was first introduced to Bert Kreischerthe “Machine” section during my Thanksgiving vacation in college. My friend poured real Russian vodka and while we were chilling he decided to show me and another friend the Kreischer section. I’ve always loved stand-up comedy, but the way Kreischer tells stories and makes me laugh is really something special. The next day I watched two of Kreischer’s specials on Netflix and I quickly became a fan. For those unfamiliar with the legend of The Machine, the storyline is that Kreischer partied with the Russian mob while he was an exchange student, which resulted in him robbing a train with a gang of mobsters.
When it was announced that Kreischer would be making his film debut with Machine, I am obviously very excited. Directed by Peter Atenciowho do is greatly underestimated Lock & Peel film Keanu, and starring together Mark Hamill as Kreischer’s father, it was great to see Kreischer get the chance to tell this story on the big screen. Unfortunately, for a time, it looked like the film was in danger of being delayed due to the Russo-Ukrainian War. This made Kreischer take matters into his own hands. He “leaked” the trailer and the positive response led Legendary Pictures to team up with Sony to release the film.
In the Machine, Kreischer plays a fictionalized version of himself. Much like his real-life counterpart, he gained fame from telling his Machine stories onstage, which led to him scoring merchandising deals, appearing on late-night talk shows, and co-hosting a hugely successful podcast. 2 Bears 1 Cave with his best friend Tom Segura. At the start of the film, Kreischer is having a hard time. The party gets completely out of control, to the point that she is live-streaming her 16 year old daughter, Sasha (Jessica Gabor) was arrested, and he canceled his stand-up tour due to “family problems”. While throwing a sweet sixteen party for Sasha, Kreischer is annoyed by the appearance of his father Albert (Hamill) with whom he has a strained relationship. The party plans immediately came to a halt when Irna (Iva Babik), the daughter of a Russian crime lord, prompts the father and son to Russia to retrieve something Kreischer stole from his father during his college days.
‘Engine’ Starts Slow Before Picking Up Speed
One of the most prominent aspects Machine just how dark it is. It’s not as common as one might expect from a stand-up comedian’s film debut. In fact, when we first meet Kreischer in the film, he’s not like anyone we’ve seen doing stand-up or on podcasts. He was totally unlikable and totally a railroad wreck of every positive relationship he had. This makes the entire first act of the film rough. Nearly all of the one-liners and gags are completely flat and make the film feel incredibly awkward. The pacing in the first 30 minutes was sluggish and scared me the rest of the film’s nearly two hours of running time.
Once the character makes it to Russia, Machine be much more fun. The jokes still aren’t as frequent or effective as fans would like, but the action is surprisingly well recorded and choreographed. There aren’t many shortcuts and Atencio allows the violence to really ensue. Even dare to be a little dirty too. It’s also not a bad film to watch for either Atencio or the cinematographer Eigil Bryld give the film a very cinematic look, especially after the characters visit Russia. From the grand palace occupied by the mafia, to the ancient village, and the train, on a technical level this film is more than competent.
Kreischer brings his stage persona to the film for better and for worse as it is sometimes negated when the film tries to have quieter moments. He plays himself as a Homer Simpson type. He’s an oafish, a little dense, but still has a good heart in the end. Hamill was also useful in the role, but sadly, Kreischer and he didn’t have much chemistry with each other and felt like an incompatible pair. Jimmy Tattoo believable in his role as young Bert. He was able to capture a lot of comedic mannerisms and timing. However, what stands out the most from this film is Babic as Irina who plays well as a badass femme fatale and is able to provide some really funny lines. Babic also works very well with Kreischer. Their bantering of each other is at the heart of the film’s best moment in which Kreischer has to shake shrapnel off his leg.
‘The Machine’ Is Light On Jokes
Admittedly, Machine runs too long, especially for a comedy. Just as you’d think the film would reach its conclusion, it decides to continue for another 30 minutes. The jokes still don’t come around often enough and so many times movies try to be funny by dropping a line or two, it’s nowhere near as effective as it could be. Furthermore, the pacing was felt all over the place. There is a subplot in the film’s flashback about a potential romance between a young Kreischer and a classmate that doesn’t go anywhere nor does it add much to the film, especially since Kreischer’s character is already married to another woman. You never really feel emotionally attached to the characters either, as the film struggles between balancing its more sinister, sardonic humor with moments meant to be heartfelt that instead feel awkward and out of place.
It’s great to see a comedy like this on the big screen again and Kreischer’s ability to market this film is quite an accomplishment in itself. Machine is supportive enough to warrant a recommendation to fans of Kreischer’s stand-up comedy, but the rest of the audience may leave feeling empty.
Machine now playing in theaters.