01/05/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
The USA-Canadian claustrophobic caper ATM is a little confining thriller that derives its psychological kicks from the logistical intimacy of an ATM kiosk where entrapment and nervous twitches should equal instant chills—at the expense of an unknown hooded winter coat-wearing psycho prancing about the vicinity with a sickened agenda in mind.
Although one can appreciate the simplicity of the premise without going through the major meltdown of overdone hedonistic hysterics, ATM is about as chilling as a partial blood stained thumb print found on the tip of a banking withdrawal slip.
Newcomer filmmaker David Brooks does incorporate a sense of small scale paranoia that gels reasonably given the film’s compartmental queasiness. However, the conventional contrivances and routine red herring signals that are riddled throughout ATM diminish the movie’s impact as a low-key throbbing thriller. Clearly, ATM is moulded in the tradition of standstill suspense pieces such as Phone Booth and Buried where the tight knit action is centralised in a neutral spot—a gimmick quite challenging to pull off while requiring one to be engaged and invested in the same encompassing surroundings.
Screenwriter Chris Sparling’s venture into making an encased ATM locale a closeted nightmare is well-intentioned but lacks the depravity depth and breathing room urgency of escapism much like his convincingly squeamish project he scribed in the aforementioned Buried. The so-called corrosive cat-and-mouse game between the victimised trapped trio and their perverse parka-donning stalker in ATM is hardly the high-voltage vehicle that warrants any inventive stimulation in this stationary scare tactic flick genre.
The first glimpse of evidenced tension is when tongue-tied David (Brian Geraghty, “The Hurt Locker”) gets up the nerve to ask out pretty Emily (Alice Eve) after a Christmas party saturated with stiff-collared professional prototypes. David’s pushy and obnoxious pal Corey (Josh Peck) threatens to cramp his style as he tries to woo Emily en route to giving her a ride home. While tagging along with the newly minted romantic couple, bothersome third wheel Corey suggests that the threesome stop at an isolated ATM display pitted in a darkened strip mall during the wee hours of the morning.
Unbeknownst to the triad looking to withdraw some funds lurks an unidentified stranger dressed in a fur-lined parka jacket as he stands motionless in the middle of the blackened parking lot. This menacing figure is bewildering to the terrified trio as they question his intentions and motivation. Is he there merely waiting to withdraw money from the ATM machine like them? Or is he there to make a hasty withdrawal—but from their periled pockets? Quick…can someone recite “bloody bank book” ten times fast without pausing?
The petrifying Parka Man soon lets it be known that he is not there to argue about ATM penalty fees…that is for certain! His murderous appetite (he randomly kills a dog walker at the spur of the moment) and terrifying efforts in trying to infiltrate the glassy ATM booth where the panicky threesome are holed up pretty much sums up his purpose for wandering about as a night-time nuisance at large. The heightened tension builds up as David, Emily and Corey play the blame game on each other regarding their dire circumstances as they hastily elude the twisted tormenter looking to make them his pinpointed prey within that ATM burdened bubble of despair.
Consequently, ATM will never reach that level of Hitchcockian mayhem anytime soon. Occasionally, the movie does have some impure and impish moments where the stress and strain of the captive privileged yuppies as potential mincemeat for a warped winter-coated madman is inspired in satirical naughtiness. The suggestive predicament of self-absorbed moneybag minions being earmarked as sacrificial lambs in the presence of a makeshift economical prison (read: an ATM glass booth) is somewhat symbolically clever and subversive. Still, the film does not possess the common sense, insight or verve to capitalise on this notion and run with it compellingly.
Unfortunately, ATM is too slightly conceived, silly-minded, illogical, implausible and periodically pedestrian to carry out what potential it had in showcasing its off-kilter parody in corporate indifference and financial fastidiousness (after all, lead character David is a disgraced investment advisor that duped his clients). The hidden message about three profitable professional pariahs as the genuine monetary monsters that deserve their comeuppance by a perturbed predator from ordinary means missed the mark which is indeed a crying shame. ATM had the edgy makings for being a shrewd and sardonic frightfest that winked at the cautionary tale of needless excess and the young established provocateurs of that same excess. Instead, ATM morphs into yet another cockeyed creepfest that encourages obligatory on-cue wincing, predictable goosebump jolts and featuring smug protagonists that conveniently meet their Maker in all-too-familiar by-the-numbers fashion.
Alas, this particular ATM is out of creative cash and needs to be serviced.
ATM (2012) IFC Films
1 hr. 30 mins.
Starring: Alice Eve, Josh Peck, Aaron Hughes, Brian Geraghty, Omar Khan, Will Woytowich, Glen Thompson, Robert Huculak, Mike O’Brien
Directed by: David Brooks
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Horror/Mystery & Suspense
Critic’s Rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars).
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