The Machine is loud, gross, obnoxious and overbearing. It’s also disarming, quick-witted, fast moving and becomes increasingly funny as it ends up in, of all places, Russia for its payoff scenes.
Presided over, if that is the right term, by the irrepressible Bert Kreischer, the big-gutted comedian who goes by the name The Machine and prefers to appear without a shirt on whenever possible, has landed his first big feature film at age 50 and continues the same comic shtick he’s been doing for years. Lo and behold, it’s still pretty funny stuff. This is a big picture for a big guy, and Kreischer is so persistent, and persistently off the wall, that it’s finally far easier to enjoy the party than to carp and resist.
Kreischer makes a point of performing with his shirt off when at all possible, something that becomes a tad strange in Russia if rather less so in Florida, where we first meet Bert and his family at a big outdoor birthday party. The man is part overbearing pater familias and part pushover, so much does he want his kids to be happy and succeed and like him. The guy seems obnoxious at first but wins a viewer over within minutes, so funny and ingratiating is he. But in the dramatic arena, the big guy is so loud and persistent that he drives those closest to him away.
Not too many guys with a girth like Kreischer run around with their shirt off whenever possible, but it’s just one of the ways that the man makes an impression you can’t forget. Before you know it, you warm to him despite his bluster and the fact that he’s made the rest of his family fed up with him, at least for the moment.
These domestic mishaps and misjudgments leave him all but alone, at which point The Machine makes a surprising move back to the Russia of some years ago, where much of high comedic drama plays out. Following in Kreischer’s own footsteps — the fellow spent a semester there 20-plus years ago — the film both shifts into a higher gear just as it also reaches its comedic peaks with far-fetched hilarity involving both the train and their destination, where any number of fates will be decided.
One character who plays a major role in this stretch of the story is the ultra-capable Irena (Iva Babić), a sensational fighter possibly surpassed only by Alexi (Robert Maaser, who could easily pass as the offspring of Robert Shaw’s villain in From Russia with Love). Together, they comprise an exceptional team and the fighting that ensues is pretty spectacular.
Seeing the Russia presented here in the wake of the current war presents a strange dislocation between dramatic fantasy and reality. Even so, it’s entirely possible to sink into the goofy comedy that seems to bubble up out of The Machine without much thinking about Russia or much else in the real world, so wacky is the stuff that ended up onscreen.
Director Peter Atencio, best known for helming 54 episodes of Key & Peele, keeps the actors on their toes and pulls off some good action toward the end, and Mark Hamill creates an unexpected characterization unlike anything he’s ever done before.
Title: The Machine
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Director: Peter Atencio
Screenwriters: Kevin Biegel ,Scotty Landes
Cast: Bert Kreischer, Mark Hamill, Iva Babić, Robert Maaser, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jess Gabor, Rita Bernard Shaw, Nikola Đuričko, Oleg Taktarov, Amelie Child-Villers, and Mercedes de la Cruz
Running Time: 1 hr 52 minutes