The Machine is a feature-length extension of standup comedian Bert Kreischer’s most famous routine about his college trip to Russia, where he helped some gangsters rob a train. The movie starts with Kreischer already a famous comedian, dealing with the aftermath of his viral-hit routine, and his proclivities towards hard partying. A Russian mobster sends his daughter to retrieve Kreischer and bring him back to Russia to locate a precious family-heirloom watch stolen during Kreischer’s robbery. The movie asks for an extraordinary amount of buy-in for anyone unfamiliar with Kreischer’s story, which is treated alternately like a globe-rattling pop hit and a matter of intense curiosity. The Machine attempts to retell the story straight and elaborate on it, ultimately favoring the former.
Quoting The Guardian, if you’re going to put a stand-up comedian into a big, climactic fight scene, it better be really funny. That’s just one of many rules you may not realize were in place before watching The Machine, a feature-length extension of stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer’s most famous routine. It’s a story about how the former Florida State University frat boy and prolific partier took a college trip to Russia, where he bumbled into confidence with the Russian mob and wound up helping some gangsters rob a train.
The Machine makes a strange structural choice. It starts with Kreischer, playing a version of himself, already a famous comedian, dealing with the aftermath of his viral-hit routine. His fame has exacerbated his proclivities toward hard partying, the glorification of which has taken a toll on his family life, even as it sends his podcast shooting up the charts. Kreischer’s success also brings him to the attention of a Russian mobster, whose precious family-heirloom watch was stolen during Kreischer’s robbery. The mobster sends his icy daughter Irina to retrieve Kreischer and (improbably) bring him back to Russia so he can locate the watch. Eventually, those flashbacks kick in, supplying the particulars of Kreischer’s original Russian jaunt and brief, accidental life of crime.
The decision to put present-day Kreischer front and center drops viewers into Bert’s unpleasant home life, full of friction with his teenager daughter Georgia and worsened by a visit from his needling father Albert, who winds up accompanying him on his return to Russia. With its early US-set scenes, the movie asks for an extraordinary amount of buy-in for anyone unfamiliar with Kreischer’s story, which is treated alternately like a globe-rattling, unavoidable pop hit and a matter of intense curiosity for anyone unfamiliar with it.
This double hubris does illustrate the bind the filmmakers find themselves in: do they retell the story straight and risk boring Kreischer’s fans? Or do they attempt to elaborate on the story and risk alienating anyone without a pre-existing interest in what makes Bert Kreischer tick? The Machine does both, but ultimately favors the former, resulting in a film that is more interesting for what it represents than for what it is.
Here, Jimmy Tatro plays the college-aged Kreischer in flashbacks, but he doesn’t enter the movie until a ways in. The film requires the audience to have a prior knowledge of Kreischer’s story, which can be a little daunting for those who haven’t heard of him before. However, Tatro’s performance is convincing, and he manages to embody Kreischer’s character perfectly.
The Machine is a decent attempt at bringing Kreischer’s story to the big screen. However, it falls short in a few areas. The movie tries to balance Kreischer’s comedic persona with his more serious moments, but the result is a film that feels uneven. The Machine is a film that is more interesting to Kreischer’s fans than to the general public. If you’re a fan of Kreischer’s stand-up comedy, you’ll probably enjoy this movie. However, if you’re not familiar with his work, The Machine may not be the movie for you.