Lately, there seems to be a rash of action, horror, and suspense thrillers that are based on the nefarious use of technological devices. Last years tragic Cellular comes immediately to mind as a spectacular waste of 90 minutes of my life. So with that rather painful wound still fresh in my cortex, I shuddered a bit when I heard the premise of Beeper. However, after considering that I would rather watch Harvey Keitel chew up the scenery for the better part of my evening than listen to Kim Basinger whine about here broken telephone, I decided to give Beeper a chance.
Let’s just get right down to it, this film is a helluva lot better than the title implies. What I mean is that this puppy ain’t gonna be winning any awards for most original title of the year but, if you look past the slick direct-to-video-tri-pic-box-art and the tragically cheesy tagline then you’ll get a flick that’s quite a bit more than the sum of its parts.
Beeper tells the story of Dr. Richard Avery (Ed Quinn-looking like James Caviezel’s lost brother) a widower who decides to take his son Sam (Stefan Djordjevic) to India for a medical convention. What sounds like a bad idea from the start, dragging your kid off to a foreign country while daddy drones on about dull medical jargon, quickly disintegrates into utter chaos, as Sam is kidnapped by a mysterious man, that looks like some sort of deranged Eastern Indian ninja. Now, India-Ninja demands that the doc follow his incredibly vague orders if he ever wants to see his son alive again and the means with which the Kidnapper will communicate his quagmire of instructions to the Doc is – you guessed it, the beeper. What seems to be a fairly random kidnapping by the local police and an American Anti-terrorism operative (Joey Lauren Adams) is compounded into a virtual nightmare when Avery accidentally swaps pagers with a runner for a local Opium kingpin (Harvey Keitel). Now the doc is gonna need the help of the local cops, the drug dealer, and the sexy but squeaky American Op if he has any hope of getting his son back in one piece.
Beeper is a pretty bouncy little thriller with nice amount of action-set-pieces wound around what could have been a fairly routine storyline. The performances of Keitel and Quinn really ground the film, which has a respectable plot twist that frankly I wasn’t quite expecting. I can’t tell you how nice it is to think that the twist is going to be really obvious only to slightly put off by the actual turn of events. Arguably, the plausibility of Minnie Mouse powerhouse Joey Lauren Adams as an American operative is hard to swallow, however, the lack of respect she is shown by the local law enforcement rings as the most true to life facet of the film. In the end, Adams makes the most of what turns out to be a fairly meaty roll and certainly a unexpected turn for the funny lady. The film is rounded out with a couple of explosions and a car chase through an Indian bizarre that reminded me vaguely of the one in Octopussy but still proved to be more than effective.
Beeper made its theatrical debut on the 2002 festival circuit and has somehow only just found its way on to video, which strikes me as rather odd considering its psuedo-star power and swift pacing. I guess the DTV market was just too clogged up with backlogged Van Damme, Seagal and Jeff Speakman films, which is a shame since Beeper stands out amongst the ho-hum, shoot ‘em up, spy thrillers that seem to permeate ever other shelf at your local super-mega-video-shop. So in conclusion, if I might be so bold, I would ask you my fellow readers to entertain a closing thought. As you sit down to watch Beeper, consider this…does anyone still use those things?