And no, it isn’t Michael Bay.
I look at Vin Diesel as being somewhat akin to Sylvester Stallone, in that he started out his career with well-regarded work in a few (in terms relative to his later work) “serious projects,” only to make a severe and conscious decision to assemble a dossier littered with meathead machine-gun flicks, with the occasional half-baked family comedy thrown in as chump bait.
Like Stallone, Terrell Owens, and the latter-day Orson Welles, Vin Diesel is quite strictly a paycheck player: a highly visible, somewhat bankable figure who will sell a baseline number of tickets (or DVDs) no matter how shitty the project, but who, at best, pays only lip service to the notion of a quality finished product. And it’s the baseline, not necessarily the bottom line, that keeps the lights in the Redbox lit.
At first blush, Diesel’s latest announced project, The Machine, is the kind of straight-to-video sci-fi turd that even Cannon Films would have hesitated to stamp their logo on in the late ’80s. Upon closer examination, it’s actually worse. When I was going over the brief synopsis in this Variety piece, I stopped at the words “human-like machine”, having seen neither “Terminator” nor “RoboCop” in the preceding sentence fragment, the only modifiers that would necessitate continued reading.
That anybody else could soldier through a pitch for a project of this ilk is one thing, but that director Peter Segal is sold on the idea enough to have signed on to helm it is quite another.
You will remember missing Segal’s previous work on the 2008 Get Smart reboot. And the 2005 The Longest Yard reboot. And the Tom Arnold Naked Truth trilogy of the early ’90s. There is already a cavern with his name chiseled into it in Comedy Hell. Now he turns his abilities upon the universe of horrible science-fiction.
The Machine has yet to enter pre-production, so release date information is unavailable, but in “researching” this piece, I IMDb‘d Mr. Diesel, and found a few items of interest:
1. Since 2001, Diesel has added nineteen acting credits to his CV, not including The Machine. Twelve of them contain at least one of the words “fast,” “furious,” “XXX,” or “Riddick.”
2. Of all the Fast and the Furious sequels, I was perplexed to see that one of them was entitled simply Fast & Furious, with really just a sole ampersand seperating the title of the 2009 flick from the 2001 “original,” and couldn’t help but wonder if this might have been an attempt on the studio’s part to hoodwink Team Diesel, a clearly ragtag assemblage of showbiz minds, out of some sort of back-end compensation, and whether or not it may have actually worked.
3. The Riddick canon, if you will, began as a TV pilot called Into Pitch Black, that came out around the same time as Boiler Room. This is not so stunning in and of itself, particularly to seasoned Riddickites, except that it confirms the existence of Vin Diesel Trivia, only previously hypothesized by a bouncer on a stool outside of the Lipstixx strip club in Tampa, Florida.
4. I got a laugh out of the top line of Diesel’s acting credits, which reads as follows: “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (announced) ????” Then I realized that the four-pack of question marks appeared in the “date” column, and did not actually question the motives of a God that would allow such a project to occur in a universe guided by reason.
Stay tuned for more Vin Diesel jokes as this current project trudges along.