Two Thrillers from IFC
ATM (July 22/12)
An increasingly ludicrous thriller, ATM follows a trio of coworkers (Brian Geraghty's David, Alice Eve's Emily, and Josh Peck's Corey) as they stop off to grab some cash from a remote ATM booth and subsequently find themselves trapped within by a mysterious psycho. It's interesting to note that ATM fares best in its opening half hour, as filmmaker David Brooks, working from Chris Sparling's script, does a nice job of establishing the three central characters and the tentative romance that's clearly brewing between Geraghty's David and Eve's Emily. And although there's certainly some promise in the protagonists' early dealings with said psycho, Brooks, for the most part, proves utterly unable to infuse the proceedings with even a hint of dread or suspense - which, as expected, ensures that it becomes more and more difficult to work up any interest in or sympathy for the heroes' perilous predicament. (It doesn't help, either, that Sparling's screenplay hits all the anticipated beats, including the murder of random, idiotic bystanders and in-fighting among the characters.) ATM's various problems are compounded by the facelessness of its villain, as it becomes increasingly difficult, without the presence of a motive or rationale, to swallow that one person would go to this kind of trouble to terrorize three random strangers. The progressively underwhelming vibe is perpetuated by Brooks' late-in-the-game decision to employ handheld camerawork, which, when combined with an ambiguous and hopelessly unsatisfying conclusion, effectively cements ATM's place as a disappointingly half-baked thriller.
Brake (July 23/12)
Brake follows Secret Service Agent Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff) as he's trapped in the trunk of a car by sinister terrorists bent on mass destruction, with the film detailing the character's efforts at escaping from his perilous situation without divulging the location of a Presidential bunker. It's immediately clear that Brake's ongoing similarities to 2010's Buried, unintentional as they may be (ie both films were reportedly shot at the same time), create an atmosphere of deja vu that proves disastrous, and there's simply never a point at which director Gabe Torres and scripter Timothy Mannion are able to even partially replicate Buried's pervasive atmosphere of tension and dread. There is, of course, more to Brake's failure than just an unfortunate resemblance to its clearly superior predecessor, as Torres' inability to capture the viewer's interest, even partially, is exacerbated by an incongruously deliberate pace and an almost total absence of compelling plot developments. Having said that, Brake does improve slightly as it passes the one-hour mark - as Mannion begins tossing in one implausible (yet refreshingly attention-grabbing) twist after another. The progressively ludicrous atmosphere partially compensates for the movie's various problems (including Dorff's competent yet far-from-sympathetic performance), although, by that same token, Mannion ultimately takes things just a little too far with the unreasonably broad and impossible-to-swallow conclusion - which finally cements the film's status as a second-rate carbon-copy of Rodrigo Cortés' vastly superior Buried.