Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #264
Number of Views: One
Release Date: April 6, 2012
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $1,084,053
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director: David Brooks
Producers: Paul Brooks, Peter Safran, Sarah Pineau
Screenplay: Chris Sparling
Story: Chris Sparling, Ron Tippe
Special Effects: Mark Burym
Visual Effects: Perry Kroll
Cinematography: Bengt Jonsson
Score: David Buckley
Editor: David Brooks
Studios: Gold Circle Films, Buffalo Gal Pictures, The Safran Company
Distributor: IFC Films
Stars: Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve, Josh Peck Mike O’Brian, Robert Huculak, Ernesto Griffith, Bryan Clark, Daniel De Jaeger, Omar Alex Khan, Aaron Hughes, Will Woytowich, Glen Thompson
Suggested Audio Candy
Dire Straits “Money For Nothing”
Certain films struggle to resonate with Keeper. It isn’t that these features aren’t well enough made or lacking ingenuity. Unfortunately, they’re just a little too restrictive in scope for their own good. Varying cases in point: in Open Water, once Daniel and Susan are marooned in the big blue without so much as a rubber duck for company, we know the next hour will consist of them treading water until nearby sharks finally take the bait; in Phone Booth, any sense of dread is lessened by the fact that it is essentially 80 minutes of listening to Colin Farrell making a phone call; and in 127 Hours, which is beautifully shot and acted I hasten to add, we’re already aware that we’ll have to wait 126 hours before Franco has the cojones to sever his arm muscles.
None of the aforementioned are bad films, on the contrary, they’re all more than worthy of note and, in Danny Boyle’s case, he wouldn’t know how to make a movie which wasn’t commanding at the very least. However, watching a trailer for any one of them would significantly dampen your experience as there isn’t anywhere left for them to go. It essentially becomes painting by numbers once that three-minute teaser has come and gone. Everyone has a different take of course but, for Keeper, I don’t wish the writing to be on the wall before I so much as boot the disc.
David Brooks’ full-length debut ATM is one such creature. If you have any intention whatsoever of committing 90 minutes of your time to this tight-squeeze thriller, then I would urge you not to watch the trailer beforehand. To do so would be akin to perusing naked Polaroids of the girl you are still plucking up the courage to say hello to. It markedly neuters your whole experience. With that said, you may just as well stop reading this now, although I shall try to leave some meat on the bones with my analysis. Can’t promise it’ll be easy but anyhoots.
It starts out promisingly enough. Three co-workers pay a late-night visit to an isolated ATM vestibule on their way home and soon find themselves trapped together while a hooded psychopath roams about menacingly just outside, preparing to soundly ventilate each of them in turn. They consist of David and his slightly obnoxious cross to bear buddy Corey, and the object of his long-running affection Emily, who appears to welcome his advances and already has her diaphragm pre-loaded. The only way out of this mess is to make a run for it but events in the interim discourage them from making that dash for freedom.
What commences is the customary battle of wits as they search for ways to give their faceless antagonist the slip and this entails hatching all manner of harebrained schemes, rather than using their God-given grey matter to afford themselves a realistic fighting chance. They lumber from one poorly conceived plan to the next, each time only serving to enable the net around them to close in. This is the kind of movie which will have you screaming bloody murder at the screen in an attempt at snagging their attention. It’s ultimately fruitless, the damn vestibule must be sound-proofed.
The three amigos are played by Brian Geraghty (When a Stranger Calls), Alice Eve (The Raven) and Josh Peck (The Wackness), three capable performers with bright futures ahead and the buck doesn’t stop with them. All three do their level best at playing the rabbit in headlights and are given ample opportunity to show their range in histrionics. The killer, simply credited as The Man, does little more than stand there, looking ominous. It isn’t required that we learn his motivation as the entire movie plays out as one long isolated incident. Nevertheless, charisma isn’t a strong point and the parka jacket has already been done to death in Urban Legend. Hilariously, this leads to a case of mistaken identity as they chose the one night where every wayward straggler is clad in the same hooded outfitting.
Whether or not you feel the tension rising depends largely on how many films of its ilk you have sat through. If there had been five or six of them ensnared then, at least, we’d have fun at the fringe-members’ expense but we are left severely limited by lack of numbers. In that respect, 90 minutes is made to feel a tad too long and that’s never an encouraging sign. It’s not without merit and is actually a reasonably well-made chiller with stellar sound design and some decent photography. Long shots highlight the hopelessness of their plight and tight interior shots bring home the terror of their impending doom. If nothing else, it may convince you not to use an automated bank teller for future transactions.
There is a nice little twist come the end, not one you won’t have prepared yourself for in advance, but one which at least gives a little more insight into the killer. The issue is that, by that point, many of us would’ve already formed our conclusions and will be past caring. It may seem as though I have been a touch harsh on ATM and hopefully the score it receives will take the edge off a little. All things considered, it does enough to justify an isolated view. Just don’t expect to be going back for seconds. Just like the cash machine of the title, there’s a limit to how much you can withdraw.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Dread Factor: 2/5
For the Dread-Heads: The stronghold never feels quite isolated enough. Maybe, had it been situated in a less conspicuous location than a freeway exit parking lot, then it may have had the blood pumping more effectively. As it stands, it raises little more in its addressee than a vague and unsustainable sweat.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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