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ATM (2012)

IFC Films/MPI Media
Bu-ray Disc Released: 7/31/2012

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/7/2012

I believe that I've mentioned before that I'm a film fan, a film critic, and possibly a film scholar, but I'm not a film historian. Therefore, I can't tell you who created the siege movie, but I can tell you the genre has a long and storied history. A siege movie deals with a group of people who are trapped inside of a structure due to the fact that a menacing force awaits them outside. This idea was popularized in westerns which featured characters who were trapped inside of a fort. The modern horror version of this idea came to fruition with 1968's Night of the Living Dead, which created a new template for the movie, which was then picked up by John Carpenter in Assault on Precinct 13 in 1976. And thus, we get entries into the genre every year. But, none have been as brain-dead and jaw-dropping as ATM.

ATM opens at a company Christmas party where Corey (Josh Peck) convinces his buddy, David (Brian Geraghty), to a make a move on their co-worker, Emily (Alice Eve), as she's about to leave the firm. Emily actually takes David up on his offer to leave the party and go elsewhere. However, David is Corey's ride home and suddenly this third wheel is in the car with the newly formed couple. To make matters worse, Corey announces that he wants pizza from a cash-only restaurant and thus needs to stop at the ATM. David finds a free-standing (as in, not attached to a bank) ATM and Corey goes inside. When he doesn't emerge immediately, David and Emily go in to see what is taking him so long. While they are doing this, a figure clad in a hooded ski-jacket appears, and the trio is afraid to leave the relative safety the ATM building. The man continues standing there and David, Corey, and Emily debate about how safe it would be to leave. This argument takes a new turn when they observe the man killing a passerby. Now convinced that they are trapped, the group tries to think of a way to signal the police, as the temperature continues to drop.

Movies are fiction (I hope that didn't burst a bubble for some of you) and thus when they invite us into their world of make-believe, we are asked to play along and accept that what we are seeing is real. This is called "suspension of disbelief". Some movies, like most dramas, ask for a little, while others, like science-fiction, ask for a lot. And then we have movies like ATM which basically asks us to remove our brains and hold them in our laps for the duration of the film, as nearly everything that happens here is completely unbelievable.

Any goodwill or actual quality built up in ATM is lost almost immediately as we are presented with incredibly stupid characters whose every action is ridiculous and unbelievable. First of all, why did David park so far from the ATM? Why are these young, able-bodied people afraid of one guy in a hooded jacket? It is 5-below, as we are constantly reminded, so why wouldn't he be wearing a hooded jacket? Corey and David are businessmen who don't come across as tough guys, but wouldn't they feel that they'd stand a chance in a two-against-one fight? Sure, the sight of the guy killing someone would be shocking, but while he's killing that person, why didn't they run? When Mr. Hoody disappears behind the ATM, why didn't they run? The "Why didn't they run?" questions -- and trust me, there are a lot of them -- soon give way to the "When did he have time to do that?" questions, as Hoody-Man sets traps and cuts off escape routes.

I've never seen a story so destroy a movie, as ATM asks us to be afraid along with Corey, David, and Emily. Perhaps the makers of the film assumed that being trapped (and again, that word is used with a grain of salt) in an ATM booth is a universal fear. As the movie wears on, the characters seem to get dumber and dumber and their actions get less and less justifiable. And then we have the ending. Yes, an ambiguous ending is exactly what this movie needed. The idea of no story capped off by no ending apparently seemed like a good idea to someone. ATM comes from writer Chris Sparling who also wrote the Ryan Reynolds vehicle Buried. Clearly this man has some issues about being trapped in a box, but Buried took one character and a seemingly simple idea and make a tension-filled film with it. ATM has no idea what it's doing and its attempt at creating an air of claustrophobia are fruitless.

Now that I think about it, ATM may be one of the worst movies ever made or one of the best. If it was meant to be taken at face value, as a thriller that is playing it straight, then it's a truly awful movie. However, if Director David Brooks was making a sly spoof of the siege genre, where the dumb characters don't even know that they're free to escape, then this is a work of genius. However, I think it's the former when means that ATM stands for "a terrible movie".

ATM offers no way to get your cash back on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of IFC Films/MPI Media. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The only notable issue here is that the picture is a bit dark at times. The colors look good and natural. The picture offers a nice level of detail and the depth is notably good, as the constant parking lot shots show a quasi 3D effect. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As most of the film takes place in a single location, the track does a good job of placing the viewer in that space. We get stereo and surround sound effects which illustrate sounds occurring both to the side of and behind the characters. These effects are nicely detailed and we also get effective subwoofer effects at times.

The ATM Blu-ray Disc contains only two extras. The first is an 8-minute "Behind the Scenes" featurette which offers comments from Sparling and Brooks, as well as the actors. There is a discussion of the story and a look at the creation of the ATM set. The piece contains a nice amount of on-set footage. The only other extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long