Tuesday, October 16, 2012


ATM has a ridiculous premise. Three people (Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve, and Josh Peck) are trapped inside an ATM booth while a sinister looking individual stands outside in a Parka. But as Brian Collins at the great site horror-movie-a-day pointed out in his review: "...it's terrible to dismiss a movie on concept alone - otherwise I and a lot of others probably wouldn't have gone to see that movie about the guy who dresses like a bat fighting a clown." It's a point I agree with 100%. There are plenty of asinine story lines that have worked very well as a film. However, ATM isn't one of them (for the record, even though Brian made that comment he actually liked the film less than me.).

The movie tries really hard to make the scenario seem plausible. After leaving an office Christmas party, Josh Peck's character is drunk and hungry and wants Geraghty to take him to a pizza place on the way home that only takes cash (are there any places in large cities like that anymore?). They park far away from the ATM because Geraghty and Eve are pissed at Peck; you have to have an ATM card to get inside the building which is why Parka Man (as I like to call him) is stuck outside, and so on. There are still plenty of holes you can poke in all of this set-up - why wouldn't Alice Eve just drive the car up to the ATM when she decides to go in herself especially after she finds out she can't lock the car door with the clicker but is not bright enough to just use the key. But it's fine; it's a decent beginning to what could be a pretty cool self contained thriller.

The first strike against the film is that our three victims are a pretty unpleasant bunch, especially Peck. Peck is essentially playing a grown-up bully who has goaded Geraghty (who is pretty damn whiny) into finally asking Eve's character out on a date (a likable enough individual but poorly written; to her credit Eve does the best she can). After he finds out Eve likes him just as much, Peck decides to be a bigger dick and force them to give him a lift home which gets them into this situation.

The other problem I have with ATM is that it's just not very suspenseful. Parka Man actually gives them plenty of opportunities to escape; at one point they are easily 100 yards or so from the booth and decide to go back for really no reason at all. One character does make a better attempt to escape only to be foiled by a booby trap that I have no clue when or how it was set-up, but at least the attempt was made. This also seems like a pretty populated area so the movie presents one of those scenarios where literally everything would have to go just right for the villain's plan to work, and the three stupidest people alive would have to show up for his trap. At one point he starts filling up the booth with water, and even though they have been smashing the ATM machines with big poles to try and get an alarm to go off no one thinks to break one of the windows?

There are few decent sequences. Another person enters the booth at one point, and provides probably the movie's most intense moment. There is also a humorous scene involving Parka Man pulling out a fold-out chair to have a seat and watch his plan go into action. And the ending, while a tad predictable, is well executed but would have been a lot more effective if everything that came before it was better.

I was glad to see this wasn't just a Saw rip-off like the previews and plot description made it seem like. I was under the impression the guy was going to make them torture each other or themselves or some such nonsense, and I've seen enough of these torture esq films to last me a lifetime and haven't particularly liked any of them. But actually a couple of simple trims and drop a few of the F-bombs and this movie could very easily be PG-13. Not enough to recommend it, but it is important to know the movie is not what it presents itself to be in the promos.

While I can appreciate that everyone involved did try to make this work, the execution just isn't up to par with the effort. The actors (especially Peck) all do the best they can with pretty uninteresting characters; the villain despite all of his elaborate set-up and planning comes off as very one-note - they do set-up a possible sequel at the end that I would probably check out just to see if the director and writer (David Brooks and Chris Spraling) can do any better with this type of premise. In the end ATM is the definition of a mediocre movie. It could have been a lot worse, but it could have been a lot better.


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