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Review: On the trail of child predator in uneven 'Amber Alert'

November 01, 2012|By Gary Goldstein
  • Summer Bellessa and Chris Hill in "Amber Alert."
Summer Bellessa and Chris Hill in "Amber Alert." (Wrekin Hill )

All things considered — micro-budget, unknown actors, no real special effects, the point of view of a single video camera — "Amber Alert" proves a resourceful little thriller. Director Kerry Bellessa, who also co-wrote with Joshua Oram, effectively pairs the "found footage" sub-genre with some "don't go in there" chills to create a film that feels both current and enjoyably retro.

That said, "Amber Alert," in which "Harry and Sally"-esque pals Nate and Sam (Chris Hill, Summer Bellessa) decide to follow a presumed child predator across several Arizona highways, is light (read: nonexistent) on character dimension and, frankly, logic.

The movie also grates as the whiny Nate and obsessive Sam bicker over their impromptu road trip: He's hungry, she thinks he's a selfish man-child (he kind of is); he's scared, she's all let's-break-a-window-and-save-the-kid.

And let's not even talk about the inept police department.

Yet, even though the entire picture consists of raw footage shot by Sam's younger brother and co-traveler — Nate and Sam's reckless adventure begins as an audition video for a reality TV show, then they spot an Amber Alert sign — this brief film visually holds interest, especially as the story's tension efficiently mounts.

By the time Nate and Sam reach the potential point of no return, they — and we — are undeniably hooked. Can "Amber Alert 2" be far behind?

"Amber Alert." MPAA rating: R for some disturbing content and sexual references. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.

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