ATM (2012)

APRIL 6, 2012

GENRE: SURVIVAL, THRILLER
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)

When the trailer for ATM first appeared a few months back, I defended it against some folks who were offering up things along the lines of "That is the stupidest concept I've ever heard for a movie, why would anyone see that?" While I had my doubts it would work, I think 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. Silly ideas can be great movies, and I think cinema would be pretty goddamn boring if everything we saw held up to sound real world logic. As long as the filmmakers commit to their concept, however silly, a fun/good film can come from it.

However, ATM is not that film. The filmmakers do NOT commit to their idea; if anything the screenwriter seemingly forgot to do anything after coming up with the basic premise, more than likely after momentarily being scared to exit an ATM booth one night and thinking to himself "Hey... this might be a good idea for a movie!" on the way home. Christ, the movie burns through what little goodwill it has in the first 10-15 minutes, before they even get inside the damn thing! I sort of buy the reason they park so far away (the Josh Peck character - the one who wanted to use the ATM - was being a prick so it was his "punishment"), but why doesn't driver/hero Brian Geraghty pull up closer when Peck waves for him to help him in the ATM? And why does the girl (Alice Eve) get out of the car and walk into the cold booth to stay warm when she could have simply turned the damn car back on? She had the keys! Not to mention the reason they stop there in the first place, which is to get cash so they can buy pizza at a cash only joint, instead of just going to a 7-11 like a normal hungry person at 1 AM. Thus, by the time they get "trapped" inside the booth, I'm already having trouble getting into the movie, because it refuses to ever offer up a healthy dose of even movie logic.

Then it just gets worse, as the killer (dressed like the Urban Legend guy, which makes someone's mention of an "urban legend" kind of funny) doesn't really trap them inside, and in fact gives them plenty of chances to escape that they never make. Throughout the movie we see him doing SOMETHING on the other side of the booth (why he draws this part of his plan out for so long is another mystery), which means if they are quiet one person could slip out and get to safety before he even realizes that they've ran away, since he's ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BUILDING. All they had to do was implement a chime or something that would go off when the door was opened to give their refusal to just leave some credibility, but no one involved was that clever. Instead, they just have one of them suggest there are "more of them" out there and thus they shouldn't risk it, which doesn't hold water because WE KNOW there aren't any more of them, as we saw him working out his plan (alone) in the opening scene! This sort of stuff has to convince the audience just as well as characters, otherwise it falls apart. Granted, a lot of movies don't make any damn sense if you think about it, but the difference between those and ATM is that the plot holes aren't practically spelled out for you.

And it gets worse. At one point one of them does finally opt to run away when the killer is preoccupied, only to get knocked on his back by an invisible trip wire he had set up at some point (something that should have happened sooner - this would have been a better excuse to keep them inside than what they offered). How they missed him setting it up is unknown, so let's just ignore that. Anyway, one of the others goes out to rescue him, and so you're thinking "OK now they run to safety or at least jump in the car that the (now dead) security guard arrived in, right?" Wrong - they fucking run back inside the booth! The car is actually closer to them than the booth, so this is just a giant "screw you, audience" moment, where the director and writer seem to be actively trying to annoy everyone that paid to watch their movie.

It also lacks any real tension. The killer can't get in, and they don't make much of an effort to get out, so the only time the movie comes to any sort of life (sadly) is when innocent people show up and get killed. A guy walking his dog (in the middle of a parking lot at 2 am on a freezing cold night?), some poor bastard trying to use the ATM, and a security guard (who apparently never has to check in with anyone since their absence is never investigated) give the movie some minor tension, because its unknown if they'll die instantly or survive long enough to add some actual wrinkles to the plot. Unfortunately, it's the former in both cases, and no one seems to notice that they're missing, despite the fact that the movie takes place over four hours or so.

The script can't be bothered to flesh out the characters at all, either. Everyone has one trait and seemingly no existence prior to today - no one mentions a roommate or loved one (or even a damn PET) that would wonder where they were; no one kills time talking about how they met or even cracks a joke about being late for work the next day or something. For a concept this flimsy, you'd think the screenwriter would try to focus on anything else he could to avoid having to put the characters in yet another inane situation, but he can't be bothered. Oddly, the only time they get personal doesn't even make sense - Peck's character discovers he is broke, which is why he calls in Geraghty, yet halfway through the movie Alice Eve suddenly wonders how he was able to get into the ATM in the first place if the magnetic strip on his card was disabled. Huh? Where the hell did she get that from? Peck even reprimands Geraghty for mocking his finances in front of her when she first entered the booth, so this just confused me to no end. And that it's the closest they ever really get to giving the characters any weight just makes it obnoxious on top of it.

But most frustrating is that the screenwriter is none other than Chris Sparling, who wrote the terrific Buried. Now, that film knew how to work around its limited concept by having Ryan Reynolds converse with family members and various government personnel in between far more effective survival moments (a snake, a fire, etc). Clearly, he knows how to handle this sort of claustrophobic horror/thriller movie, so why is this one such a mess? Which one is the fluke?

Oh, and the movie seems to suggest a sequel. The best thing about the film is watching the killer methodically map out his plan, including diagrams of the parking lot, the range of sight for the security cameras, what time the adjacent businesses close, etc. He covers all of his bases, and it's mildly entrancing watching him go about it. And since (spoiler) he gets away at the end (via a plot "twist" of sorts I wouldn't dare give away; if you're silly enough to check this thing out after reading this review you deserve to be as confounded as I was), the end credits show him mapping out potential targets - a small farm, a gas station, a mini-mart, etc. As a fan of the "trapped in a ____" genre, I would almost welcome it - the killer is clearly intelligent, and we learn nothing else about him here, so there's room to develop him into an iconic franchise icon. But they have to promise that future installments aren't this crushingly stupid and weightless.

What say you?

17 comments:

  1. I just obtained this movie. Might give it a go tonight -- but man, much like SILENT SCREAM, they totally ripped of the look of the killer from URBAN LEGEND.

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  2. Weird..I just watched this last night. I agree with everything you said - at times, this film was just laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Another part that bugged me: towards the end, when the guy rams the car into the door, the male lead clearly pushes the door open a bit. So then why would the room start filling up with water. Stupid, stupid.

    The film lost me when they went outside to get Josh Peck's character and RAN BACK INTO THE BUILDING. Are you kidding me?

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    1. Dude is that one hard to sort out?,run to the car while the killer dude is the one who switched off the car,do you think he left the key in there?,do you think they will just walk in the car and cut the wires and switch it on manually in a second???,the only place they were sure it is safe was the ATM,don't just drop a crap it seems you never even watched the movie dude

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    2. That's the dumbest rebuttle i've ever heard. You can't defend it, it's was a stupid movie decision to not keep going. But that can be said a dozen times in this movie.

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  3. Thanks for the review - I won't waste my time with this one! Sometimes the off-the-wall concepts can turn out really good (Frozen, for example), but this sounds like something that will make me chuck pillows at my tv screen.

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  4. It sounds awful, but I agree that to reject a movie simply on the concept is lame. It's the kind of idea a guy like Hitchcock would have loved, and ha made a few versions of similar things. And Phonebooth did a lot with that general concept, I loved the hell out of that movie. But Larry Cohen is the MAN.

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  5. I thought it was a pretty decent watch. Sure it ain't nothing new, but on its own terms, it's pretty fair.

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  6. Great review. Thought it was awful as well. There is nothing likable about any character in this movie. The girl is super hot but that's about it. In most of these types of movies you develop some type of affinity for the killer or at least a little distain for some of the victims. Especially a movie that clearly wants to have sequels. I hate this fucking asshole and I don't really care either way about the people he's killing. I just find myself really wanting to kick the killers ass or wanting someone with some balls to kick his ass. You think maybe in the beginning that this guy is intelligent because of all his planning in his little room but then he lumbers around like a zombie hacking at the back door of the ATM and then somehow someone leaves a fire hose laying around and he gets this bright idea. What a mastermind??? And the ATM surveillance tape that he masterfully edited somehow doesn't seem too suspicious or anything. It's an open and shut case. 3 kids in their early twenties with good jobs go into an ATM and loose their fucking minds for no apparent reason. Case solved. I would have threw a pillow at my TV but I was watching it on my computer so I just deleted it. Not the worst thing I've ever seen but the most frustrating. If thats what the writer and director were going for then they did a great job. I doubt that they want people walking out of the theatre saying I hate that fucking movie.

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  7. I hate that fucking movie. Singularly the worst piece of crap I've seen all year. There's nothing worse than writers who assume that viewers have the time or disposition to do their work for them.

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  8. I kept thinking why don't they all three just run in different directions? He can't chase them all and maybe he would hesitate enough that they could all get away. (Of course, they all three would have hit the trip wire in unison and fallen to the ground! LOL) Another irony was that the door to the ATM wasn't even locked to the outside. The villain could have come in at any moment, but apparently didn't know that. What was his original plan? Just kill one person in the ATM? Or did he plan to have a group so he could frame someone with the camera?

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  9. I agree with what you said on the fact that the movie was rather illogical. There were a lot of "why didn't you just __?" moments. I have to contradict, though; I liked it.

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  10. i cant what for the sequel vary cool movie beter than the remake of halloween bast horror movie of 2012...

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  11. This movie entered my top ten worst movies list right next to Duel and Battlefield Earth. Geraghty has acting chops and I hate to see him wasted in this "movie guide on how to fail and die." When the villain was pummeling the random guy (who felt a -5 below midnight walk was just what his dog needed) and the three just stood and watched I knew I had committed to a rough movie. It's really hard not to just tear into how bad this movies plot and "twists" were. Highly suggest not purchasing this movie until a sequel that at least lays a foundation of character for the villain is made.

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  12. I actually some what enjoyed this movie. I had seen this prior to reading this review and i love watching 'trapped' movies. I love guessing who, and how each person dies. But the stupidity of the people stuck in the ATM nearly brought me to tears. First of all, they had thought up a pretty good plan. Light the papers on fire, and set off the alarm bring the police to them without using their phones. But of course, Corey decides to pretend like he doesnt have a lighter. Finally after killing a man watched two others die, one decides to make a run for it. but of course a trip wire magically appears and he runs into it, getting stabbed. Then the guy gets away, and the blonde guy get sent to prison, and his crush's neck snapped, i was crying. Not of sadness but of pure stupidity of everyone in the movie.

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  13. Reading the comments below, I see a lot of negativity towards a movie that deserves credit. The idea and concept towards the movie is something semi-new and done pretty decently. The actors/actress in this movie, were excellent. The plot was decent and the storyline was decent.

    To defend a point below about running back into the ATM with Josh Peck. What were they supposed to do? Josh Peck was hurt, The main protagonist was already injured a bit. Did you expect that the main protagonist and the female should try to assist Josh Peck away at a slow pace? The guy never set foot in the ATM and never attempted to get in. In a situation like that, what are you going to do? Run away and leave your friend to die? Try to carry your friend to safety somewhere else, knowing full well a killer could be coming for you? In that situation they did the most logical thing you could do in that situation, go back into the ATM where hopefully they would remain safe from his attacks.

    There is some flaws in the script and writing, however if you look past these minor details and actually WATCH this movie, you will enjoy it.

    If you did watch this movie, and didn't enjoy it, clearly you are either too simple minded to grasp the concept, or you are looking for something spectacular to blow your mind and a simple, well written movie like this will never reach your expectations.

    I have recommended this movie to other people, and have gotten great compliments from EVERYONE I told to see this movie, telling me it was a good movie, with a decent thriller vibe plot.

    8/10. Watch the movie!

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  14. I didn't like the movie, there were three of them and yet one of the bad guy, i don't see why they couldn't have just killed him like they killed the janitor guy

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