Review: Welcome to “The Machine”

Review: Welcome to “The Machine”

At one point in time, it felt like the trajectory of Stand-Up Comedians was to get so popular that it would lead to a TV show or film deal. Now the big goal seems to be, get big enough to sustain a large podcast audience.

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While comedian Bert Kreischer certainly obtained some notoriety before his stage presence was well known.

An article about the biggest partier at the biggest party school led to the Ryan Reynolds bomb, Van Wilder (which is very loosely based on Kreischer’s exploits). But now, with fans seeing him on stage, listening to him on podcast streams around the world, Bert has broken that final wall down with an official film starring role based on his comedy routine.

Kreischer reached a new level of fame when his Showtime special, The Machine, went viral. The act’s grand focal point revolves around Kreischer regaling his audience with the tale of his trip to Russia with his college language class. Long story short, he ends up partying with the Russian mob who refer to him as The Machine, due to his poor knowledge of the actual language.

One thing leads to another, and he ends up robbing every passenger on a train to Moscow (his classmates included) along with his new mob buddies. As this story becomes legend of its own, the Russian mob of the film gets wind of the stand-up special and kidnap Bert to force him to return a special item he stole during his drunken night with the mob.

Reading that previous paragraph, you’d figure this is a fairly straightforward film. Man robs train with mob as a college student. Mob finds him years later after he tells the story to the world, madness ensues. And while the events of The Machine are not complicated or convoluted, it tries too hard to cram in a thoughtful family dramedy.

Daddy issues reaching to every branch of the fictionalized Kreischer clan and even the mob that kidnaps Bert and his father take center stage. It’s not that these story points take away from the flow of film, but they do nothing to add any inch of comedy to the affair and just feel like someone said, “If you don’t have a heart to your story, you have nothing.”

I’m well known as being a stick in the mud to others when it comes to my opinion on films. Friends and readers will ape on me for not liking an action film because its plot is flimsy and pointless. “Why can’t you just turn off and enjoy the action?” I hear it all the time. And there are many films that are all style and craziness and have no substance that I enjoy. The Machine should have been more substance and less story.

Large swaths of the story are meta moments of Bert’s actual exploits from the stand-up routine acted out by Jimmy Tatro as the young Machine. Fans who know the story aren’t in for any surprises. In fact, many fans at my screening who were stomping on the floor and clapping through their crying laughter at the introduction by Kreischer himself before the film, were silent through most of the movie. There were some moments of shock and awe when the film went to some places you might expect it not to, the laughter was held to a smattering of chuckles.

There is a section of the movie where Bert reconnects with an old Mob buddy that actually shines.

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It kicks off the final act of the film and is highlighted by some real decent belly laughs. But it comes too late, and it’s too little. Though I doubt this ever was the plan and ever crossed someone’s mind, but The Machine felt more like an excuse for Bert Kreischer to hang out with Mark Hamill and profit (maybe) off the success of his already 7-year-old viral stand-up routine.

This isn’t a painful dud that makes you wish the mob would come and kidnap and torture you as that would be better than sitting through the film. Bert, while just playing himself, doesn’t scream “star power” from the screen, he clearly is putting in an effort and isn’t there to just play around. But a lot of the scenery around him doesn’t feel the same.

Nikola Duricko who American audiences will know as Yuri from Stranger Things adds a little more bang for your buck in his short appearance, but it doesn’t outweigh the wooden action stylings of the film’s female lead, Iva Babic, as she robotically runs through some fight choreography.

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Fans of The Machine special and Bert will probably have a ball with the film; but I’d be lying if I said they might just be fooling themselves into thinking they are having a great time. The Machine should have been a lot simpler than it decided to be. Balls to the wall fun would have been the way to oil up the rusty gears of this machine.

Final Grade: C-

Check out more of Matthew’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the film.

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