Saturday, March 31, 2012

ATM (ATM: Er Rak Error / ATM เออรัก เออเร่อ)

Let's See Who Quits First!

I always believe that competition will bring out the best, or the worst, in a partner and oneself, and it's always either fun if things go right, or a challenge if otherwise, during the course of this discovery that could make, or break, relationships. Reality shows like The Amazing Race has demonstrated time and again that the best of couples stick with each other even if decisions or tasks at hand seem to put them at odds, and the worst that could happen after these disagreements given time and other pressures, is the inevitable split given new found hard truths that cannot be reconciled.

As I've mentioned before, GTH is on a roll in its horror and romantic film offerings, and continues this streak with their latest film ATM, a true blue romantic comedy that provides plenty from both genre mixes into one massive film that's suitable for the family, and definitely right up there amongst the best contemporary love stories from around the region. With good looking protagonists providing eye candy while we enjoy and endure their one up-manship against each other, and a story that's kept simple to follow, ATM is one madcap, fun filled adventure about machines gone awry, and the recovery of money from withdrawals that exploited a system glitch.

At the bank they're working at, Jib (Preechaya Pongthananikorn) is assistant department manager in charge of the bank's ATM machines country-wide, while her boyfriend Sua (Chantavit Dhanasevi, last seen in another GTH comedy hit Hello Stranger), happens to be a lowly co-worker in the same bank. There's an employment clause working in the bank, and that is co-workers cannot be dating one another, since it believes that will perpetuate into opportunities for fraud to take place, and while Jib is the unit's clause enforcer, she's essentially leading a hypocritical life since she and Sua are into a relationship for years already, with colleagues none the wiser. To take the pressure off her, Sua proposes and makes arrangements for an upcoming wedding, but they cannot decide just who amongst them should resign.

Then comes an opportunity to resolve this given an ATM glitch in a small town where extra cash got dispensed to an unknown number of people to the tune of a some thousands of Baht. Sua and Jib agrees that whoever is able to recover the amount for their employer will stay employed, and the loser to resign. From then on it's game on, as they try all sorts of means and ways to stay ahead of the game, which is almost akin to finding some needles in a haystack since preliminary investigations churn out no useful information from whatever logs and records the bank would have kept.

Expect plenty of comedy to come from each of the couple in their own respective story arcs in their quest to stay in their jobs. With Jib, there's a small sub plot involving the bank manager's son who joins the company as a trainee and is not bounded by the non-dating rules, doing his very best to try and woo Jib, and on Sua's end, finding himself amongst the small townsfolks trying their very best to hide the fact of their unexpected ATM windfall, and getting himself into a needless romantic triangle involving a young teenage couple when the laundromat's daughter happens to develop a crush on him. Aiding both Jib and Sua is the small town bank branch's manager who has his loyalties tested constantly, and plenty of support characters who add colour to the simple plot, each having their own reasons why they are keeping their ill gotten gains.

The draw here is of course both Chantavit Dhanasevi and Preechaya Pongthananikorn playing a couple who find themselves deep into competition that puts their relationship on the brink of breaking up. Director Mes Tharatorn paces the film expertly and doesn't lose the audience one bit in his brand of humour brought to the table, which is filled with plenty of sight gags and crazy situations that range from an arsenal of jokes stemming from repetition to even toilet humour. Chantavit Dhanasevi continues to show that he's capable of being a comedy leading man without the need to go over the top with his delivery, while Preechaya Pongthananikorn possesses enough sweetness and tenacity to give romantic heroines from Korea and Japan a run for their money, fitting right into the looks department, with great comic timing to boot.

ATM is zany, slapstick, and has just about everything in it that will bring a smile to your face by the time the end credits roll, and the NG clips come on. It's perfect as a date movie, and cements GTH's reputation in competing with the best of romantic comedies that the Japanese and Korean film industries can conjure. Highly recommended, as it slots itself as a genre contender to be amongst this year's best.

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