This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
Ah man…it’s time for a modern indie thriller. Now, I try not to have anything against indie films as it’s nice for people to make their own films and get them out into the market. The problem is that 90% of the indie films that I’ve seen have all been rather terrible. This film is no exception as its aggravating characters and poorly thought out plot leave much to be desired. You’ll probably spend most of the film correcting the writers or pointing out how unrealistic the characters are. Most of the film relies on the assumption that the heroes aren’t smart at all and that all of the background characters have no common sense. These assumptions don’t lead to a smart movie.
There aren’t a lot of characters here since just about the whole film takes place in a portable ATM shelter. David and his beer buddies were enjoying themselves at an office party when he decides to drive Emily home. It’s her final day at the job so this is their last chance to talk about the weather. Unfortunately, Corey had one too many beer bottles and decided to tag along just to embarass the other two and prevent them from saying anything important. He forces them to pull over at an abandoned gas station, but then forgets that his card doesn’t work. David and Emily follow him inside, but then they see a mysterious fellow show up outside of the shelter. The heroes are instantly petrified and can only watch as the guy murders anyone who tries to get to the ATM. If they leave, they may face the same threat. Rather than exploit the 3 vs 1 advantage on a guy who’s standing in the cold and getting frost bite, the heroes decide that it’s in their best interest to freeze inside of the ATM shelter which is actually just as cold as the outside world. Did I mention that they didn’t bother to bring their phones?
You can argue that the last line destroyed the film’s credibility. I don’t think it had any to begin with, but there’s no way you wouldn’t bring your phone when heading to an ATM. People take their phones with them everywhere and this is no different. It was a rather lazy excuse to have the heroes be unable to call for help. To make things worse, David’s car has a broken lock so anyone can just open it and do what they want. The villain’s a master at hacking cars and getting them to work even without the keys so he’s really all set on his end. The heroes can just grin and endure this experience until they freeze over.
None of the characters are likable here, which is really bad for a film like this. David just lets Corey take advantage of him the whole time. He’s not very smart and makes all of the wrong decisions each and every time. Just hanging out with such a toxic crowd the whole time starts him off on the wrong foot. Emily’s not an interesting character either and it sure was convenient that she happened to already like David since otherwise his random flirting on the last day of her job would have just been awkward. I doubt anyone wants to hear a confession from someone you’ve worked with for years and never said anything to you in all that time. David comes across as desperate.
Finally, there’s Corey. He’s the miller time character of the group. He doesn’t really have respect for anyone but himself. He trolls a Domino’s pizza delivery guy for no reason other than to just make a scene and he refers to his fellow colleagues with a certain insult as opposed to using their actual names. He’s as bad as it gets for the drunk “friend” category and continues to put the characters in a bad spot throughout the film. He’s certainly someone that you cannot count on and someone that you wouldn’t even want on your side. He talks a good game, but his confidence vanishes pretty quickly.
Then there’s the Villain. Thing is, he doesn’t get any lines and we never really get to see him to save the budget a little more money. He just stays in the hoodie the whole time except for the opening and closing scenes of the film. He has no character and is just portrayed as a generic serial killer. There’s nothing engaging about him at all. This guy does still manage to bring the film down though. For starters, the film’s ending cemented the fact that this movie was terrible. Ready to hear the ending?
Basically, the serial killer wins. He frames David for murdering everyone else despite this being logically impossible and then heads off to murder some other people. It’s just a very mean spirited ending and one that almost comes across as an inspirational message to villains watching this movie. It tries to show that he succeeded because of his careful planning and that he’ll just continue going on like this. The villain winning in an ending can work if it’s handled with extreme care, but this film didn’t have any of that delicacy. It’s not like a Xenomorph showing up at the end and destroying the last hero or Godzilla blowing up the planet. A serial killer just getting in the way at the end is simply a lot darker and the kind of ending that you don’t want to see. At the very least, it’s an ending that guarantees I’ll be giving the film a terrible score.
The film was already at a very low point anyway. It would have gotten a 1 tops, but the ending is what ultimately pushed it over the edge. The writing is as terrible as it gets with language being used so much that you have to wonder how small their vocabulary is. Whether intentional or not, it doesn’t change the fact that all of the characters were bad. Plot points happen artificially to continue the plot. For example, the main villain did let one guy go into the ATM machine so the heroes could murder him and further incriminate themselves. The guy happened to be wearing the same coat and didn’t get to say anything before they took him down. That’s really hard to swallow.
Naturally, the film also squeezes in the trope of having the cop show up, but get taken down immediately. Naturally, none of the characters told him to watch out for the murderer approaching him and the cop took his time looking from side to side. Stuff like this keeps on happening. The camera also conveniently goes dead right at the end to make David look as guilty as possible. It’s not even so much that the villain planned things out well, but that luck was on his side. The heroes were not quite so fortunate, but then again..they weren’t exactly heroes either.
The film’s also pretty violent as you would expect since the villain just beats everyone to death. Nobody puts up a fight either and they keep on getting hit long after they’re dead for extra impact. Over the top violence adds another check to the list of weak points that this film had and another reason for you to avoid it all together. At least the dog lived as I was a little worried that it would come back and get taken out. I’ll give the film some credit for that, but not enough credit to actually win it back a star.
Overall, ATM is a poorly conceived film and the execution was as bad as could be. The ending is terrible and not only does it send the wrong message but it drags on as well. I don’t think anyone wanted to re watch a large part of the film via flashbacks, but the ending did it anyway. There’s no one to root for here and the film’s never any fun. It’s just a dark, violent story where the villain gets all of the first and last laughs. It’s hard to see how anyone thought this would be a good idea. With superb writing I suppose this maybe could have been a decent idea, but it would need drastic changes. It’s just hard to play this out with any sense of realism. The villain gave the heroes dozens of opportunities to escape as he did some drilling in the back and kept on giving them a lot of room. He’s fortunate that none of them were very athletic or brave. I highly recommend watching something a little more classy like Mission Impossible. Those films will remind you of what true quality is.