Penalty Fees

by Glenn Lovell

Talk about your memorable first dates! When David finally gets up the nerve after a Christmas party to drive Emily home, a pushy friend insists on tagging along and then, in the wee small hours, forces David to stop at a lonely strip-mall ATM, where all withdrawals include a stiff penalty — levied by an ominous figure in fur-lined parka.

Does the stranger want to bum a ride or rip them off? If only . . .

The Man in the Parka plants his feet and holds the three easily intimidated souls captive in the large glass booth.

So, they call for help, right? Can’t. David’s cell phone is dead and Emily’s is in David’s car. So, they make a mad dash for the car? Uh-uh. David parked too far away. OK, so they pound on the glass to get a passer-by’s attention? Nope. Parka Man doesn’t make nice with nosey parkers.

If you can forgive director David Brooks his lifeline contrivances, you’ll have a good time shuddering through “ATM,” a tidy, reasonably effective U.S.-Canadian release in the tradition of “Phone Booth,” “Buried” and other tight-squeeze thrillers.  It’s not a great film, but it is a capable one enlivened by a few strong jolts and a twist ending that would have amused no less a connoisseur than the man himself, Hitchcock.

We have Chris Sparling to thank for the premise and lively dialogue. Sparling scored two years ago with the even more challenging (and restrictive) “Buried.” Here, he and Brooks have carefully scoped out the logistics of an unlikely hostage situation and, by utilizing a surveillance camera (with time stamp), they keep us apprised of how dire the situation is becoming as the mercury dips to minus-seven and the threesome begin to blame each other for their lousy predicament.

Brian Geraghty (“Open House,” “Hurt Locker”) plays the likable, initially tongue-tied David, and Alice Eve as Emily shifts easily between sensible and panic-stricken. But it’s Josh Peck as the too-smug-for-his-own-good buddy who holds our attention and makes us think that these young professionals (read Bret Easton Ellis types) may, in the end, deserve what they get.

ATM   With Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve, Josh Peck. Directed by David Brooks; scripted by Chris Sparling. 90 min. Rated R (for profanity, violence)

2 Responses to “ATM”

  1. JiM Says:

    Seriously???? How was the ending a twist ???


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