“ATM” may not be the best movie around (and since it’s currently playing in only one Manhattan theatre, it’s not yet really “around”), but if you’re craving a taut, claustrophobic thriller set on a freezing near-Christmas eve this Easter weekend, it’s a good choice.
The debut feature of former film student and director David Brooks puts three familiar young Wall Street types in a freestanding, glass-enclosed ATM on the outskirts of an empty shopping mall parking lot—like a ship adrift in an ocean. There the two young men— David, played by ‘The Hurt Locker’s” Brian Geraghty and Corey, Josh Peck of “The Wackness”— and their co-worker, Emily (Alice Eve, the dreamgirl in “She’s Out of My League”) find themselves stranded, threatened and virtually imprisoned by a mysterious figure outside whose fur-trimmed hood hides his identity. The three have no idea who this man is, or why he is there, but it soon becomes clear that he will kill anyone who interferes with his plan to menace them. And probably kill them all as well.
The audience meets this monster well before our heroes do, because he is obviously the person drawing a blueprint of the ATM location as the film opens to eerily played notes of “Silent Night.” But our knowledge is no help in identifying the villain, which remains as much a mystery to us as to David, Emily and Corey. The screenplay, by Chris Sparling from his original story idea, offers one possible hint, but it’s a very unlikely explanation.
The story begins with David struggling to convince a client whose retirement income he’s lost, to stay with the firm. Although he’s not really in the mood, David lets his friend Corey convince him to stay for the office Christmas party where it will be his last chance to approach Eve before she moves on to another job after the holidays. So far so good.
David and Eve overcome a weirdly awkward exchange, and she agrees to let him drive her home. But then Corey insists that David is his only ride home as well, so he gets into the back seat and proceeds to ruin this potential first date with stupid, drunken remarks.
The dumbest turns out to be his insistence on stopping at an ATM so he can get cash.