Synopsis: Bert Kreischer rose to fame as a stand-up comedian known as The Machine, and in his signature set he recounts his true experience with Russian mobsters while on a booze-soaked college trip. Now, 23 years later, that trip has come back to haunt him as he and his estranged father (Mark Hamill) are kidnapped back to Russia by the mob to atone for something they say he did. Together, Bert and his father must retrace the steps of his younger self (Jimmy Tatro) in the midst of a war within a sociopathic crime family, all while attempting to find common ground in their often fraught relationship.
It’s not easy to admit when you’re wrong. Moreover, it’s even harder admitting that you need help, let alone seeking it out. Men of a certain age, specifically Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers, were raised to hide and be shameful of their emotions. We were told that boys don’t cry, don’t talk about our feelings, and to “man up” anytime we felt anything other than contentment. Once we’ve reached adulthood the only emotions we’re left with that aren’t completely perverted are happy, angry, horny, and hungry. It all resulted in terrible communication skills, unnecessary violence, and crumbling relationships along with combative parenting. Nevertheless, it’s 2023 and we now know better and we’re doing better, but trying to squeeze tears out of a bear is easier said than done. It just takes time and effort.
“I’m just trying to be a good dad.”
Whatever crazy story you’ve lived through, you’d be hard-pressed to top this one. Directed by Peter Atencio, The Machine is an uproarious reward for Kreischer fans old and new. Bert will tell you himself, this movie only happened because his diehard supporters and admirers made it happen. Not only do you visually get to experience the unbelievable viral story through weaving flashbacks, but the new journey the film takes you on is just as raucous and almost as insane as the true one. It’s back to Russia but this time there are fewer drugs, less alcohol, more knives and guns, and this trip isn’t voluntary. Furthermore, if the threat of death wasn’t enough, his family dysfunction is at an all-time high. The laughs are plentiful, the bullets are in abundance, the drama is thick, and the craziness is on ten. The big question is can Bert stay alive long enough to salvage the relationships within his family?
“Look at me, I’m Molly Parton.”
If the poster for this movie had one statement to make, it’d be that it’s a fun time. It should be evident by the huge grin on Kreischer’s face. The theme is simple and straightforward, it’s about family. Family disputes flow heavily like Russian vodka for most of the characters and while most situations are handled with violence and subterfuge, there is a healthy counterbalance as The Machine is attempting to live a better life and make better decisions. As badass as it is, at its core, the story is as thoughtful and warm as Bert is in reality. It’s about evolving as a man, as a father, and as a husband. It drives home the message that it’s okay to open up and be vulnerable and in fact may be necessary to a happy and successful life.
Honestly, it’s the perfect Father’s Day film. It has a little something for everyone but leans heavily on the surprisingly well-done action sequences and of course the comedy. Not all of the jokes land, nonetheless, there’s enough that do that will keep you constantly laughing from beginning to end. Whether you take your significant other, your family, your friends, your emotional support animal, or that one annoying but always available Tinder match, this rib-tickling labor of love is best enjoyed with company. If you loved Bert Kreischer before, you’re going to love him more. If you’re unfamiliar, he might just make a fan out of you. Its rewatchability is high.
Pacing & Pop
When it comes to the pacing of the film, it can potentially feel a bit drawn out if you’re not already somewhat familiar with the story. Those who have been fans of Kreischer for a while know that the story is long but with it. What popped for me had to be the chemistry between Bert and Iva Babić. Bert’s terrified but go-with-the-flow demeanor pairs perfectly with Babić’s ruthless no-bullshit yet secretly lukewarm personality. The constant back-and-forth flirting with death routine is really enjoyable.
Characters & Chemistry
Starring: Bert Kreischer, Mark Hamill, Jimmy Tatro, Iva Babić, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jess Gabor
The performances are incredibly fun and mostly hilarious. Bert is extremely comfortable in front of the camera but you should expect nothing less from a man confident enough to do standup comedy shirtless. Mark Hamill plays the dad that consistently gets under your skin. However, once Luke Skywalker calls himself Molly Parton, you can’t be too mad at him. Iva Babić steals the show as the Russian mob princess, Irina. Her violent tendencies pair well with Kreischer’s terrified demeanor. Their chemistry is hysterical. It’s very bad cop, scared cop. And let me not forget about Jimmy Tatro. He’s always entertaining when he plays a dudebro and young Bert is the dudebro supreme.
The Machine is now in theaters as of May 26, 2023. Remain safe and vodka straight.
Runtime: 1h 52m
Director: Peter Atencio
Writers: Kevin Biegel and Scotty Landes
Based on: The comedy of Bert Kreisher
Producers: Bert Kreischer, LeeAnn Kreischer, Judi Marmel, Cale Boyter, Peter Atencio
Executive Producers: Jay Ashenfelter, Philip Waley
The Machine is an uproarious reward for Kreischer fans old and new
Senior Critic. Observing the human race since 1988.