Odd Thriller ‘ATM’ with Alice Eve, Brian Geraghty

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CHICAGO – They have now officially run out of places in which to terrorize beautiful people on film with the release of the bizarre and unfulfilling “ATM,” a new thriller with three talented actors nonetheless caught in an ineffective film that stretches to meet its running time and then ends with a final act that destroys suspension of disbelief. There are brief glimpses here of the movie that could have worked but there’s a reason it’s only opening in limited release for now and playing On Demand through most of the rest of the country. It’s not a successful transaction.

The long set-up (designed mostly just to get the film to a 90-minute running time) sets up three of the film’s four principal characters, starting with co-workers and friends David (Brian Geraghty) and Corey (Josh Peck). David has long been interested in a third co-worker, Emily (Alice Eve), but she’s leaving the company and he may not get his chance to profess his unrequited love. Or will he? As Emily is leaving a party, David finally gets the liquid courage to offer to give her a ride home. Sadly, a boisterous Corey needs a ride too and tags along as the third wheel. Corey’s hungry too. He demands that David and Emily stop and get some late-night pizza. Uh oh. It’s cash-only. So, they stop off at, you guessed it, an “ATM.”

Photo credit: IFC Films

First, naturally, Corey goes in alone to get some scratch. He waves and calls in David, who has parked bizarrely far away from the ATM in one of many decisions that wouldn’t happen in real life but need to in order for the story to work. In the same vein, Emily gets tired of waiting in the car in a dark parking lot while Corey and David are taking forever and so she too joins them in the dimly-lit booth. The transaction ends (Corey’s magnetic strip wasn’t working and so he needed David’s card) and the trio turns around to see a shadowy figure in the parking lot in a parka. He’s foreboding to say the least. But maybe he’s just waiting to use the ATM. When they open the door, he moves quickly towards them. They retreat. Then a guy comes by with his dog and his brain is introduced to the pavement. The guy outside the ATM is crazy and Corey, David, and Emily are trapped inside.

From here, you might expect “ATM” to go some pretty crazy places, introducing us to the maniac in the lot and letting us in on his plan. And that’s where Chris Sparling goes wrong. We never really know what the hell is going on, which Sparling and debut director David Brooks probably think enhance the tension but it actually does the opposite. If we could be let in on the plan, there would be interest in watching it foiled by these characters. Since we don’t really know if he wants to kill them, torture them, take their money, or why, we don’t have enough of a reason to care what happens. As Chris, Emily, and David increase their panic and start to make really stupid decisions (including several that just don’t make sense and even more that one realizes were a part of a plan that relied HEAVILY on things that couldn’t be planned), the viewer loses interest. “ATM” is one of those thrillers that gets less thrilling as it goes along.

Photo credit: IFC Films

It’s through no fault of Geraghty, Peck, and Eve, three actors who have flirted with bigger levels of stardom but never quite found it. (Geraghty has been solid in films like “The Hurt Locker”; Peck mesmerized in “Mean Creek”; Eve was one of the best things about the final season of “Entourage”). “ATM” is the kind of film that neither hurts them nor helps them on their resume. Consider it neither a career deposit nor a withdrawal. Just a drunken encounter with the movie machine that doesn’t quite work out.

ATM” stars Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve, and Josh Peck. It was written by Chris Sparling and directed by David Brooks. It opens in limited released on April 6, 2012 and is available On Demand.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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