THE MACHINE (2023) is a new movie based on the comedy of stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer.
For my money, comedy is the most difficult genre to do well in the movies. A really good comedy is really hard to find, more so these days. Hopefully at some point soon we’ll witness a comedy renaissance, and they will be as prolific as Marvel superhero movies.
But that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon, and THE MACHINE certainly isn’t a step in that direction. As comedies go, it’s not very good. Actually, it’s kinda bad.
I saw it not because I’m a fan of Kreischer’s, whose comedy I barely know, but because the trailer was actually pretty funny, and Mark Hamill was also in the cast, playing Kreischer’s father. I was hoping to laugh a lot. I didn’t. The laughs are few and far between, and they’re not very hearty.
As I said, the plot of THE MACHINE is based on Kreischer’s comedy routine, in this case his famous story about how he earned the nickname “The Machine,” when he was in Russia and robbed a train with the Russian mob. In the movie, he’s pretty much playing himself, and so the film opens with Bert struggling to be a good dad for his two daughters, and a good husband. He’s trying, but he’s also failing. To make amends, he throws a lavish Sweet 16 birthday party for his daughter, and at the party, his estranged father Albert (Mark Hamill) arrives, and Bert and his dad have major issues with each other.
Also arriving at the party is Russian mobster Irina (Iva Babic) who tells Bert that her father, the head of a powerful mob family, wants his watch back that Bert stole when he was in Russia twenty years ago. Bert says he doesn’t remember stealing a watch, and so Irina and her henchmen kidnap both Bert and his dad and bring them to Russia where they are forced to find the missing watch.
Which is what the rest of the movie is all about, Bert and his father’s misadventures as they try to find the missing watch. I’ve seen worse plots. However, the humor in this one never really takes off.
While Kreischer is a fairly funny guy, he doesn’t knock it out of the park. At times, he can be raunchy, but most of the time he’s a goofy wannabe likeable “fat guy.” It’s also part of his shtick to go around without a shirt, which doesn’t really happen in this movie until the final reel. Neither persona is all that sharp, and so the humor is tepid at best. There are some laugh out loud moments, like when Bert is trying to pull a shaft out of Irina’s leg and he has to throw up, but these are few and far between.
I actually thought Mark Hamill was pretty funny as Bert’s weird dad, and his best moment is when he is high on drugs, but being high to get laughs is a rather low bar for comedy.
Iva Babic makes for an icy cold and sexy Russian mobster, and she plays it straight for the most part.
THE MACHINE is being marketed as an action comedy, but the action scenes aren’t very good. The fight sequences are a bit slow in their choreography, and they’re just not as slick and polished as what we are used to seeing in action movies these days. Director Peter Atencio features some nifty camerawork here and there, but he drops the ball with the action sequences.
The screenplay by Kevin Biegel and Scotty Landes is meh. The story is okay, but the situations which should be rife for hilarity just aren’t. Bert and his father’s exploits in Russia have the potential to be laugh out loud funny, but they’re not.
I’m tempted to say that this one is for Bert Kreischer fans only, and he does have lots of fans as the theater was packed, but while these fans were laughing and being boisterous before the movie started, during the movie, they were fairly quiet. I laughed as much as anyone else, and that wasn’t that much.
And that’s the bottom line with THE MACHINE. It’s simply not very funny, and for a comedy that runs nearly two hours, that’s a long time to sit through an unfunny movie.
I give it a paltry one and a half stars.
Four stars – Perfect, Top of the line
Three and a half stars- Excellent
Three stars – Very Good
Two and a half stars – Good
Two Stars – Fair
One and a half stars – Pretty Weak
One star- Poor
Zero stars – Awful