Machine (2007)

Rating: C+

Dir: Michael Lazar
Star: Michael Lazar, Paul Sloan, Lisa Arturo, Neil McDonough

Please ignore the cover, as neither Michael Madsen, nor James Russo (who still owes my sister-in-law twenty bucks) play significant roles here; believe Madsen was added after principal photography had wrapped. The central figures are conmen Vic and Frank (Lazar and Sloan), who imitate cops to steal drugs from dealers, then sell them and rip-off the purchasers too. Not a long-term lifestyle, and duly, they fall foul of local kingpin Santo who, as repayment, demands they take out three witnesses in an impending case against him. But femme fatale Thea (Arturo) has her own plans, as does Santo’s rival, Cho, and a sleazy vice-cop (McDonough) has his own plans to muscle in on the action.

Made back in 2003, it’s undeniably, and obviously, cheap – they couldn’t even afford blood-squibs – and there’s little here you haven’t seen before. Yet, after a wobbly start, this is curiously watchable, and we did enjoy watching the twists unfold. McDonough is particularly memorable, as the ‘bad lieutenant’, and our interest rose significantly every time he appeared, partly because he played such a loose cannon. The movie might have been better to concentrate on him, instead of trying to keep our interest in a few too many characters. It’s shot with a lot of handheld, and occasionally gets irritating; the High-DV doesn’t help, and that aspect certainly looks dated. On the whole though, it should pass the time adequately enough – unless you’re a member of a Madsen or Russo fan club, in which case, it’s not worth your effort.