Review: 'ATM' is a 15-Minute Idea Trapped Inside a 90-Minute Movie

March 5, 2012

ATM Review

Three people trapped in an ATM building. A hooded killer stands outside, toying with them. He doesn't try to break in. He doesn't let them leave, either. What would you do? That's the question screenwriter Chris Sparling and director David Brooks ask the audience with the high-concept thriller, ATM. It could have worked. If the characters here reacted in any real way, they might have pulled it off. They don't, and it becomes exceedingly obvious that ATM is a 15-minute idea trapped in a 90-minute movie. With unsatisfying and unnatural padding, flashes of style, it's tone and energy is too often replaced with shambling and idiocy.

The three trapped are actors Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve, and Josh Peck, three co-workers driving home in the middle of the night after the company Christmas party. Geraghty has a crush on Eve and plans to make his move this night. Peck, on the other hand, is the moocher, the guy who forces a ride home from you when he knows you're game plan. He's the kind of guy who makes you stop at the most secluded ATM in the world, situated in a glass building in the middle of a dark, parking lot, so he can get cash for food. Bumbling ensues, all three end up inside the glass building, and that's when they notice the man standing outside.

You get an impression early in ATM as to how much Sparling and Brooks are trying to pad their screenplay out. They don't just let us know Peck's character is a jerk, they make it evident in every action he does and everything he says in the first 15 minutes of the movie. They don't just let us know Geraghty's character is the nice guy who's trying to find the right girl. They feed that establishment time and time again until you just want an ATM, any ATM, to make an inevitable appearance. Eve's character is paper thin. You get so little from her character - and her stilted performance - that you can't help but speculate she has some ulterior motives for being here.

The two men are stock brokers, and you get a reading from their respective character in the way they handle a client who, through Geraghty's doing, has lost everything. This element would have been a nice, nuanced red herring for what's going on in the story, the idea of someone you've never met having their life ruined because of your actions. But it's brought up blatantly, as if the audience isn't smart enough to figure it out on their own.

It's a mess of characters that might work in a film with a broader scale. But keeping these three trapped inside an ATM for nearly 90 minutes doesn't work. Sparling and Brooks don't do the characters any favors after the shit hits the fan, either. The killer walks away, becomes distracted from any passerby or security guard who is unlucky enough to be in the vicinity. It's these moments where you begin playing the "What would I do?" game, the game Sparling and Brooks probably wanted their audience to play in the first place. It's the same with Sparling's previous work, Buried. Put a likable, for the most part, character in a horrible situation and see how they get out of it. With Buried, running away as fast you possibly can is never an option. With ATM, it is, but these characters don't take it. That's when "What would I do" turns into "Why are these characters so dumb".

They eventually do begin acting in intelligent ways, trying to break the ATM to call the police or actually making a dash when the killer is absent from sight. It's always 30 minutes after you thought they should act, though, which equates to about 3 hours in the story. That's how Sparling and Brooks pad their film out the most, by making the lead characters, characters with which we're supposed to connect, aggravatingly brain-dead. Yes, there's a devil's advocate argument about not knowing what you might do in any situation until you're actually in it. The "What they should do" versus "What the actually do" disconnection is so much, though, that you can't help but become increasingly annoyed the longer the film goes on.

There's enough satisfying horror beats in the film to keep it from being a total loss. You become distracted by the character's stupidity when Brooks throws in a few impressive stunts—you wouldn't think decent stunt work would be at play, but it is—or Sparling and Brooks work to pull off some well-timed and even ballsy "gotchya" moments. Brooks doesn't pull his camera back on the action often. Most of it is TV-level medium shots with little energy. However, one moment more than any other pulls back, lets you see as much as you can in the dark parking lot, and even gives you an inkling of hope. Once the promise of that situation gets cut short, though, it's done with some genuine force. Other moments tease this kind of higher grade building of suspense. None of them match it, and most of them pass by practically unnoticed.

They wouldn't be enough, either, to justify ATM, a thriller that begins as a novel idea and gets progressively more unappealing. It plods along, hitting you with decent beats here and there, until its completely overblown, overlong, and overly explained finale sucks the oxygen out like a flash fire. But ATM loses you well before that. It isn't long in the film before Sparling's desired "What would I do" question becomes "Why are they so dumb". They're this dumb, because they're in a 90-minute movie. They're this dumb, because this situation in the real world would amount to 20 minutes of film, and who could justify that? Like the characters, we're stuck in that building, forced to watch the horrors unfold. We, of course, recognize we don't have to stay there. It's not long before we decide we don't want to stay, either.

Jeremy's Rating: 4.5 out of 10

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wait where did this movie come from?

Jericho on Mar 5, 2012


Not really surprising. Although if I had to be trapped in an ATM booth, Alice Eve would not make for bad company.

DAVIDPD on Mar 5, 2012


the ending to this movie is SO bad. holy christ 

Race Bannon on Mar 5, 2012



Lebowski on Mar 5, 2012


You're a portly fellow, a bit long in the waistband. So what's your pleasure? Is it the salty snacks you crave? No no no no no, yours is a sweet tooth.

Max Renn on Mar 7, 2012


Could someone please explain the ending to me? What was the killers motive? What was he planning in the extra scenes during the end credits?

BenGleason on Mar 6, 2012


He was planning another murder for another ATM. Basically his job is to kill people at ATMs and he has files for every murder.

John Davidson on Aug 10, 2012


Had no interest to begin with. You're just confirming it, so thanks 🙂

Davide Coppola on Mar 6, 2012


Alice eve is so fine tho lol

KINGMIC on Mar 6, 2012


She is so fine tho

KINGMIC on Mar 6, 2012


One of the dumbest movies of 2012...hell 2011 too. Reasons 1. Who the fuck walks their dog at 1:00 in the morning? 2. Another guy walks into the ATM who just so happens to wearing the EXACT same thing as the killer 3. The killer spends a good amount of his time BEHIND the ATM and the three of them don't want to all blitz and run out? 4. So a GIRL leaves here purse in a car in a parking lot knowing the car can't lock? 5. Why did the guy try to unlock his car when it wasn't locked? 6. When the car is pushed against the door blondie tries to open it and it slightly opens, guess he forgot about that when the water starts rushing in and it needs to be LET OUT. 7. How did nobody see the killer leaving wire around the parking lot? 8. After they both tag team and kill a big guy, I guess they are too tired and cold to do it to the right guy. 9. SERIOUSLY, IT'S THREE AGAINST ONE!!! 10. The security camera would actually clear everything up, but it's implied that it won't mean anything in court. (David gets arrested) 11. Since when do cops arrest a suspect at a murder scene and just drive off w/o questioning at the scene. (I watch Law & Order SOB) 12. New-York is "The city that never sleeps" and everything is closed by mid-night? IDC if it is Christmas, it's NY. 13. Umm David cries over a dead girl he just met, but let his best friend sink w/o blinking? 14. A killer is trying to kill you, you are about to freeze to death, nobody can save you want to kiss each other? 2 hours ago you were forcing small talk about a mistaken beanie 15. Turns out the killer is just some random guy who enjoys doing really that's basically what the end projected.

SmartGuy on Mar 6, 2012


It's never said directly, but Geraghty's character's car has Illinois plates. They're in Chicago. Still, fair point on #12.

Jeremy Kirk on Mar 7, 2012


Yet filmed on location in Manitoba, CANADA. Messed up movie.

The hooded fag on Sep 13, 2012


Why did they park the car so far away from the ATM??? Why not pull up right to the door????

Laceymoore2000 on May 14, 2012


Because they were punishing the drunk guy, they even said so in the movie

morty on Jun 25, 2012


The protagonist are simply too dumb to make this premise worthy of being feature-length. That's really all that needs to be said.

ShutUp on Mar 7, 2012


I completely agree of you . The film does not really even worth to watch . After watching the first 10 minutes I just skipped till see the end and there was no end Rating 0/10

Jack on Mar 8, 2012


I thought it was alright. I'm just didn't understand the ending but I liked watching them getting shown up by the guys as he outsmarts them in everyday possible. For those asking where this movie came from it was on demand for awhile and is waiting to see if a theater release comes on

Blakemcduff on Mar 15, 2012


was the guy at the end just planning another one?

Lewischunks on Apr 14, 2012



morty on Jun 25, 2012


Wow, this movie really has a STUPID ending. I am shocked that the producers didn't come up with something better. On the points made above, all are correct and, of course, we (my wife and I) asked ourselves every one of those questions while/during watching this movie. You did leave out a few points I noticed. 1. Why not just put the girl down nice and easy if you care so much for her? 2. Why in the world wouldn't the 2 guys just jump the bad guy right away? 3. What "Man" doesn't carry his cell phone on him "AT ALL TIMES" in this day and age? 4. How many ATM's can you find in this Country that don't have an "Emergency Phone" in them, especially the big ATM booths like that???? Not many!! 5. (I know this was pointed out already above but I just can't help myself).. It's freezing cold, there is nothing and no one around, it's the middle of the night.. AND YOU DON'T PULL RIGHT UP TO THE DOOR OF THE ATM TO LET YOUR FRIEND OUT ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? Point 5 was enough for me, I basically watched the whole movie for my wife who thought it was exciting.. * then again, she doesn't speak much English!* IMHO!

Joseph Daleo on Jun 3, 2012


Worst movie I have ever seen, millions of plot holes and just stupid ass shit that just makes me go what?! I'm so glad I pirated this garbage and didn't actually buy it, this is the worst movie I have ever seen in the last 10 years of my life. This is worse than Wicker Man with Nicholas Cage, this is just terrible! This mastermind killer apparently planned this all out for three morons who wouldn't bring cellphones or lighters or anything and be complete pussies the entire movie. Makes fucking sense...

Pedo Bear on Jul 5, 2012


Lol u see the part where the killer trips over his wire or something

Michaelp1 on Aug 9, 2012


Anyone else here see "Frozen"? The movie where the three teens are stuck on a ski lift in the middle of the night? This kinda reminded me of that. I agree with a lot of the comments below but overall it just seems as if they tired TOO HARD to set up the movie till finally they get to the ATM (ex. it was awkward how they set up Josh Peck getting a ride with Blondie1 & Blondie2).... Just my 2 cents

Brandon on Dec 5, 2012

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