MPI // 2011 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 27th, 2012
No warning. No control. No escape.
David (Brian Geragthy, The Hurt Locker), Corey (Josh Peck, The Wackness), and Emily (Alice Eve, She's Out of My League) are three young corporate climbers celebrating at their company's impressive Christmas party. David learns the girl he has a crush on, Emily, is about to leave her job and finally finds the nerve to ask to ask her out. She happily accepts and he offers to drive her home, but finds the impromptu date crashed by Corey, one of David's lecherous co-workers. Corey requests a late night stop at a parking lot ATM machine, one located inside a small parking lot building. While the three are waiting for Corey to get his cash, a mysterious man arrives at the ATM booth. Curious and cautious, the threesome quickly realize this person isn't just there for a late night cash grab; the stranger kills a nosey passerby with brunt force and begins to pace around the ATM booth. Trapped and alone, Corey, David, and Emily must figure out how to escape before they pay...with their lives!
Hitchcockian in nature, ATM is a tight, taut little thriller that offers up a unique setting and then plays cat and mouse with its characters as the evening progresses. It's a movie that has little on its mind except stringing the audience along until the final, somewhat inevitable conclusion. The story and characters aren't novel or new, the three twenty-somethings each sporting personalities just above stock, with little exploration of their psyches save for observation. The person stalking them is of the masked variety, this time wearing a large fuzzy winter parka and approximately thirty five pairs of thermal underwear. For all we know, it's Kurt Russell wandering out of John Carpenter's The Thing.
ATM is a mix of the obvious and the surprising. There are moments when it's clear where the story is going (which character is going to be killed first) while other times I wasn't sure what the killer was going to do. I (rightly) figured the ending wasn't going to match something like The Game or The Sixth Sense, so if you go into ATM assuming it'll be something you've never seen before, you'll be disappointed. That said, while reveling in heavy cliché, it's also well made and understands the pacing needed for a good thriller. Did I learn anything new? No, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. A hamburger is still a hamburger, but prepared well there's no reason to be disappointed.
The three leads are all adequate, though they don't have a lot to work with. Brian Geragthy is the requisite nice guy trying to impress the requisite hot girl (Alive Eve, looking pretty and little else). Josh Peck is the requisite comic relief as disposable as a pair of depends undergarments. If you haven't caught my drift yet, everything here is requisite -- each actor plays their part the way it's required by the script without a lot of surprise deviation. Director David Brooks (ATM is his first feature) understands what makes for good tension. The sparse, chilly atmosphere helps to create a sense of mounting dread, while the harsh lighting and eerie shadows allow for a lot of things to go bump in the night. It's an impressive debut for the director, prompting me to check out whatever his follow-up ends up being.
Because we never get to know the characters, our investment in them ends up being minimal. While the stakes are high, our emotional connections aren't. The final moments of the film don't allow any of the survivors much empathy. It's the equivalent of watching a news story about a murder in another state: sad, but without much context or investment.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen, the film is bathed in darkness, save for moments where the characters are standing under brightly lit fluorescent lighting. The image retains a nice filmic look without any imperfections. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix is acceptable, with some fine moments where the side and rear speakers kick in. Also included are English and Spanish subtitles. The only bonus features are a short making-of featurette and a theatrical trailer.
Even with its imperfections, ATM is a lean, mean little scare machine. You don't walk out any different than you walked in, but sometimes a little light escapism is what the evening calls for.
Worth the withdrawal.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R