It's easy to dismiss ATM as an implausible thriller going by the premise and the trailer, where a trio finds themselves stuck in an ATM booth, and a stranger demonstrating himself to be a murderous psycho stalking them on the wintry outside. Questions automatically pop in regarding why three can't overpower one, or why it's more effective stalking from the outside than barging in with available vehicles, and then there's escape opportunities and a mini flood to contend with. How can any of this sustain a feature length film?
Writer Chris Sparling and Director David Brooks naturally had a lot more up their sleeves. For starters, the opening credits will show how meticulous this unsaid and largely unseen assailant actually is, preparing his ambush and game play with the use of maps and diagrams, which will reward at the end of the film, and even beyond should a sequel of sorts get made. Potential gets drawn up, and it can pretty much go on like the Saw franchise given the last 10 minutes of the film and its closing credits, with different characters, scenarios and a connected plot crafted by different filmmakers chiming in with their own ideas to expand the existing universes here.
But while waiting for that potential to be unleashed at the end, one has to contend with a rather cliche and rote storyline, revolving around three financial type characters, which in today's context I suppose we'd say they'd deserve it for the level of obnoxiousness and cluelessness two of the three had demonstrated in their brief introductions. David (Brian Geraghty) lost most of his client's retirement funds no thanks to his lack of ability in a bear market, while best pal/colleague Corey (Josh Peck) continuously shows he's a class A douche bag. At a company function, David gets a final chance to hit on resigning colleague Emily (Alice Eve) and gets an opportunity in sending her back, but not without Corey in tow and request to stop by an ATM to obtain money for a pizza supper.
And then the madness begins, with The Man (hooded at all times save for his eyes) playing psychological mind games with the trio, who have so far conveniently left their warmer clothes, communication devices and parked their car a distance away from the ATM booth rather than to drive up right beside it. With every human help that enters the picture, they get quickly taken out, confirming The Man's status as a killer, and sending the trio into a frenzy, desperate to get out of the situation by bartering for their lives, running when there's opportunity, and not budging not an option when utilities get cut. You'll laugh at their stupidity at times, especially when the tough gets going and clearly these three are nowhere near as tough as they could be, with strength in numbers not being exploited, nor having carefully thinking through all the options available.
The acting's not much to shout about as well, with each character playing caricatures. While Brian Geraghty and Alice Eve aced their parts in being very shy people finding themselves attracted to each other, the latter went further to become the de facto damsel in distress. The motivations here are non-existent, suffice to know that The Man takes pleasure in outwitting his prey almost all of the time, adding to their stress and their battle against extreme cold. It's quite a roller coaster ride, suspenseful one moment, and anti-climatic the next, with some ingenious turn of events being the exception rather than the norm.
The simple plot perhaps left many questions left unanswered, for others who may find it interesting to pick up where it left off, and contribute to the mythos of a new unnamed, faceless serial killer who thrive under scores of technical planning.