"The Machine"
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film “The Machine” review: Bert Kreischer takes his Schtick standing shirtless to Russia

“The Machine” review: Bert Kreischer takes his Schtick standing shirtless to Russia

"The Machine"

“The Machine” begins with Bert Kreischer — playing a fictional version of himself — telling his therapist he’s struggling to stop calling his teenage daughter a bitch. Yes, he knows Should come up with a cuter nickname for her and her wife of 20 years. But in her elegantly chosen words, sometimes simply act as such. The ensuing round-the-world trip – in which Kreischer travels to Russia and back to learn that his eldest son and his mate who bore her may Not be cool – is bound to tug at the heartstrings of even the most stoic of fathers. Another victory for feminism.

Kreischer is well aware that he has built a career out of himself as a complete idiot. (That he owes his fortune to his willingness to publicly take off his shirt is a frequent topic of conversation in “The Machine.”) So it should come as no surprise to anyone but the naïve optimists that the film — which is based on his the most famous piece of stand-up – he chooses to give his audience what they want by simply doubling down on the crassness. Pre-existing fans of the comic should find plenty to love: It’s set to be the movie event of the year for kids who base their entire personality on yelling “let’s gooooooo!” But anyone hoping for any kind of literary substance had better read the nutrition facts on the Junior Mints packaging.

Though Kreischer has been in the public eye for 25 years, his career exploded in 2015 when he went viral for telling Joe Rogan a story about a school-sponsored trip to Russia he took in college. As he remembered it, Kreischer led a group of Russian gangsters on a raucous night of drinking that resulted in him being forced to rob a train and steal a pocket watch. He tried to tell his new friends that he was tough, but his poor command of the Russian language led him inadvertently to give himself the nickname “The Machine”.

The film “The Machine” picks up a few years after that famously successful podcast, with the fictional Kreischer enjoying a lavish lifestyle thanks to the fame the story has brought him. But he decided to walk away from the stage after realizing the toll his partier persona was taking on his family. The final straw came when he asked his 15-year-old daughter Sasha (Jessica Gabor) to pick him up after he was too drunk to drive home one night – and continued to stream the arrest when she was stopped for driving without a license. Without his comedy career, he devotes all of his attention to mending the rift in his family, but is still recognized as “The Machine” wherever he goes.

Bert tries to be a normal father at Sasha’s 16th birthday party, but his plans are thwarted by the unexpected appearance of his father Albert (Mark Hamill). Albert owns the best carpet company in southwest Florida, and his understandable pride in that fact fills him with an effrontery that he uses to torment his son. He passively and aggressively judges everything Bert does, from his grilling skills to his ability to provide for his family without a job. But their father-son feud is quickly brought to a halt when Irina (Iva Babic), a tough-as-nails Russian criminal, shows up to beat up Bert.

As it turns out, its viral stand-up came to the Russian mobster who spent 25 years searching for his missing pocket watch. She instructs her brutal daughter to get it back, and when Bert reveals he doesn’t have it, she forces both him and her father to accompany her to Russia to look for it. (The film is so much better if you don’t wonder why Irina assumes Bert knows the location of a jewel he hasn’t seen in a quarter-century floating somewhere in a country that spans two continents.)

When they arrive in Russia, Bert decides to backtrack to try to find out where he last saw the watch. But his drunken memories of him are pretty fuzzy, so the unlikely trio embark on a “The Hangover”-style attempt to recreate the trip. They first visit the dorms he has been staying in and find the stash of weed brownies he has buried in the wall. Then they take the train from Moscow and get drunk in the bar car where the theft took place. But Russian mobsters aren’t known for their patience, so Bert’s inability to find the watch quickly pisses off an endless stream of Russian henchmen who must fight.

Having Bert recreate the trip is a clever way to turn a stand-up comedy piece into a film, as the different locations serve as a backdrop for the comic to perform segments of his stage routine. But “The Machine” really goes off the rails when it tries to turn into an action movie. The mildly violent fight sequences are only watchable because Hamill gets the occasional opportunity to spout his dumb daddy on cocaine between punches – at one point he gleefully refers to himself as “Molly Parton” after enjoying a lot of drugs. Kreischer finally realizes that he has to get drunk and take off his shirt if he’s going to save the day, a conclusion so painfully inevitable you’ll curse yourself for spending the 90 minutes it takes him to get there.

While it’s great to see Bert and Albert finally enjoy some of the father-son bond that has always eluded them, it’s unclear what they actually learn in the process. The film begins with Bert eliminating drugs and alcohol from his life for the sake of the family … then he goes to Russia and gets drunk to learn what really matters in his life. But hey, his wife and his kids seem happy in the end, so who are we to judge? Maybe now he’ll be gentleman enough to just call them “crazy bitches” when he gets mad.

Grade: C-

A Sony version, “The Machine,” hits theaters on Friday, May 26.

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