I’ll admit I didn’t much care for Peter Atencio’s The Machine when its promotional material started to ramp up. “How in the hell did Bert Kreischer drag Mark Hamill into this?” I said while watching the trailer in front of a movie. Oh, how wrong I was. Is it amazingly clichéd, superbly uninspired, and re-treads a classic father/son story we’ve all seen before? Of course. Did I have a great time with this movie? Absolutely.
Based on the viral comedy routine of the same name that earned Kreischer the nickname “The Machine,” the movie follows Kreischer as a fictionalized version of himself abducted by a Russian criminal with his father (Mark Hamill) to retrieve a watch he allegedly stole while on his last trip to Moscow. The story is relatively paint-by-numbers: Kreischer has many issues in his family, including not getting along with his daughter (Jessica Gabor), who hates his guts, and his father, whom Kreischer hates his guts.
During her daughter’s sweet sixteen, he is visited by Irina (Iva Babić), who brings Kreischer to Moscow for the watch. The rest of the movie follows Kreischer and his dad as they are caught in the middle of a war between Irina’s siblings, who are trying to retrieve the watch to be on the top of Moscow’s crime family as their father is dying and will choose his successor. This allows Kreischer and Hamill to engage in extended bouts of physical comedy, and the results are mostly successful.
Mark Hamill and Bert Kresicher Have Loads Of Fun in The Machine
This movie works so well because of how much fun Kreischer and Hamill are having. I have to admit that, as a lead, Kreischer isn’t as strong when he is on his own. However, when paired with Hamill, the two are a riot.
Hamill, in particular, seems to have the most fun, infusing a bit of Joker-isms into his portrayal of the father when he is bonked out on drugs. And he’s especially hilarious in moments where he knows how ridiculous the situation is, but he plays the moment incredibly self-awarely. His face almost reads, “I know what you’re watching is silly, but look at me; I’m having a ball, and so should you.”
There are plenty of scenes where Kreischer and Hamill get to show their comedic chops to great effect, but the best ones occur near the film’s rousing climax, where Kreischer shows what “The Machine” is capable of, and his father goes along for the ride. It doesn’t always work, and there are some clichéd instances. However, it’s a hoot when it works well, particularly in how the film stages its action sequences and develops its physical comedy through R-rated violence and copious amounts of gore.
The Machine‘s Action Sequences Are a Riot
The Machine greatly benefits from the directorial talents of Peter Atencio, who previously helmed the massively underrated 2016 Key & Peele comedy Keanu, which also had extensive action setpieces. Atencio and cinematographer Eigil Bryld crank up the blood and guts for The Machine and craft action sequences that take full advantage of the film’s insane premise.
One scene in particular nearly made me want to hurl, and I usually tolerate gore well. I won’t spoil it, but you’ll know when you see it. Of course, it’s played for laughs, and even I’ll confess that I laughed a lot during that scene, even if I was completely disgusted at the sight of what Atencio was showcasing during that scene.
There are neat one-on-one fights and slick gunfights, à la John Wick/Atomic Blonde, during the film’s final act that put the emphasis on the visceral nature of the action and craft fun and inventive fight moves alongside the characters. Kreischer isn’t necessarily a menacing character, but Atencio plays with his strengths and even has Hamill join in the mix during the end. It moves at a swift pace and always keeps the energy at a high for maximum catharsis.
Because of this, The Machine works. Its plot may be insanely familiar, and Atencio and writers Kevin Biegel and Scotty Landes don’t add much originality to the material, but it’s still done well. The comedy is mostly laugh-out-loud hilarious; Kreischer and Hamill are having the time of their lives, and the action scenes are a total blast to see on the big screen.
I would’ve loved to see this with a crowd that was as into it as I did, but I was, unfortunately, the only one. If you like fun and energetic action comedies (and Mark Hamill being amazingly self-aware), The Machine should definitely be on your watchlist to see on the big screen before it leaves. You will not be disappointed.
The Machine is now playing in theatres. What did you think of the movie? What is your favorite Mark Hamill comedic performance? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow us on social media!