The Machine 2023 Movie Review
The 2023 movie The Machine stars stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer and is based on the true story he has shared many times on stage. Peter Atencio (Keanu) directed the action comedy, which follows Kreischer playing a version of himself, many years after the actual events of his stand-up bit of the same name. Mark Hamill co-stars in The Machine in his first live-action role post-Star Wars as Bert’s estranged father, Albert Sr., who gets wrapped up in the criminal past of his son. In the movie, father and son are kidnapped by Russian gang members and brought back to answer for the wild adventure Bert went on 20 years ago.
Bert Kreischer is an occasionally offensive comedian and podcaster. He first gained recognition from a Rolling Stone article that profiled him as a legendary partier at Florida State University — an article that later inspired the Van Wilder movie franchise. Kreischer’s stand-up discusses his raucous past, and his most famous story, “The Machine,” chronicles a series of events surrounding a college-abroad trip to Russia. This bit is depicted in a flashback in The Machine with Jimmy Tatro of YouTube and 22 Jump Street fame as a young Bert. While the contemporary moments of the movie are fictional, the part of The Machine set in the past is true.
In college, Burt Kreischer took Russian for two years — largely because of a deal he made with the professor, who would pass him as long as he just showed up to class. Consequently, and crucially, he only learned a few phrases. The last thing Kreischer needed to do in order to earn his minor was to spend a semester abroad in Russia, an assignment he was more than happy to complete.
As Kreischer explains in “The Machine,” criminal families in Russia held a lot of power in the 1990s. As a result, Kreischer’s class was assigned two members of the Russian mafia for protection during the course of their travels: Igor and Sasha. Kreischer’s teacher explained that the men would be shadowing the group everywhere they went and told his students not to interact with them.
Despite being told not to talk to Igor and Sasha, Kreischer brought them vodka and beer on the first night of the trip. Because he had never actually studied the Russian language, he memorized a greeting that included a line about how much he loved to party. When the door opened, he found himself looking into a room full of gangsters.
The fish-out-of-water moment was too much for him, and he immediately forgot his prepared line. Instead, he uttered, “Ya machine!” which translates to I’m the machine!” After a beat, the Russian gangsters raised their glasses and cheered, “He’s the machine!” From that moment, Kreischer was best friends with Igor and Sasha, and they only referred to him as “The Machine.” In addition to spending his trip partying with the two men, Kreischer also participated in a pool-hall scam and a boat theft.
Kreischer joined his classmates on a trip to Moscow, but not only was that city run by a different family, but the mafia that controlled the train was yet another. Before they left, Igor and Sasha introduced Kreischer to the class’s new mafia chaperones, who immediately took to “The Machine.” They invited Kreischer into first class, while the rest of the students sat in coach, and he proceeded to drink vodka with the gangsters and the train’s conductor.
When their supply of alcohol was gone, the party went to the train’s bar cart to get more vodka, as well as bread, cheese, and, to Kreischer’s surprise, rubles. He had essentially been tricked into robbing the bar cart. Once it got dark, Kreischer joined his new friends as they stole from passengers’ luggage — including his classmates’ suitcases. The next morning, Kreischer was awakened by his teacher telling him that they’d called the police and officers were outside waiting for him.
Before Kreischer could stand up to go outside, the gangsters stopped him and said they would take care of it. Kreischer watched his friends go outside and yell at the police in front of his entire class. Eventually, they waved Kreischer outside to talk to the police himself. One of the officers grabbed him, looked him in the eyes, and asked, “Are you the Machine?” When Kreischer said yes, the officer pulled him closer and said, “Tonight, you party with us!”
Bert Kreischer’s stand-up routine usually ends with the part at the Moscow train station. He occasionally adds an epilogue or embellishments to the story to keep it fresh, but he generally maintains the same central storyline. The true story doesn’t have any far-reaching consequences, but the movie version of The Machine imagines how the events of Kreischer’s trip could have had rippling repercussions years later.
For this, The Machine makes some changes to the true story. In the movie, the flashback to the scene on the train shows that Kreischer believes he hasn’t stolen anything of note, as he makes a conscious effort to only take things that appear to be of little value. However, he does steal a valuable pocket watch from an important Russian figure, and that man’s daughter has been searching for Bert ever since. This is why, in the present, Bert and his father are kidnapped and brought back to Russia to answer for his crime.
Along with that one change to the true story in The Machine, the entirety of the present-day scenes are made up. Kreischer may have had a difficult relationship with his father, but what is depicted between his character and Albert Sr. in the movie is not necessarily based on anything from reality. Their abduction to Russia, meanwhile, is completely fictional. These main events of The Machine are set up by Kreischer’s true story and then expanded upon with an all-new action-packed follow-up that gives thematic weight to the popular tale.