‘The Machine’ Review: A Hard-Partying Comedian Pays for His Sins

In a movie extrapolated from one of his stand-up bits, Bert Kreischer is dragged to Russia to face a gory but still comedic reckoning.

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By Glenn Kenny

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The star of this picture, Bert Kreischer, is one of those popular stand-up comedians who’s not zeitgeist-adjacent enough to generate much in the way of think pieces or buzz. But in the late 1990s, as a student at Florida State University, he was the subject of a Rolling Stone magazine profile that named him “the top partyer at the Number One Party School in the country.”

The late 1990s were a while ago, and today Kreischer is a hefty 50-year-old who looks mildly partied out. That’s part of his shtick — he performs stand-up while shirtless. In “The Machine,” he plays a fictionalized version of himself, initially in a penitent mode — a family man who’s royally ticked off his clan. At his daughter’s 16th birthday party, Bert and his carpet salesman dad, Albert, are accosted, at gunpoint, by the mobster Irina (Iva Babic) and taken to Russia, where Bert is to make amends for his part in a drunken train robbery decades before.

This gore-steeped shaggy dog story is extrapolated from an actual Kreischer bit. As they dodge a score of Slavic psycho killers who are after an heirloom Bert stole, father and son hash out their issues (of course).

You may wonder, if Kreischer is such a popular stand-up comedian, why he hasn’t done more television and movie acting. Well. Here he hits his marks and stays in his persona lane, but he’s not a performer who can carry a movie. Mark Hamill, as his dad, comes closer to crusty-old-man territory than one might have predicted. He’s practically Wilford Brimley.

The director Peter Atencio has gotten reasonable results in the absurdist meta-comedy realm (“Keanu,” for instance), but he can’t cook with these ingredients. Even when the relentlessly salty humor gets fully crass (a dog is thrown out a high window), the product is bland.

The Machine
Rated R for language, gore and extreme partying. Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes. In theaters.

The Machine

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