Searching ★★

Russian-Kazakh filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov made an international splash with his action/fantasy/horror flicks: 2004’s Night Watch and 2006’s Day Watch. So naturally, it didn’t take long for Hollywood to take notice, which led to his directing gig on Angelina Jolie’s Wanted, followed by diminishing returns with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and the needless Ben-Hur remake. Where Bekmambetov’s succeeded, however, is in carving out a specific niche producing “screen life films,” thrillers that cater to social media-savvy viewers who have little difficulty sitting in a theater and watching stories unfold solely on room-sized computer screens. Unfriended kicked off the genre in 2014, and it gained the attention of John Cho, who decided to co-produce (with Bekmambetov) and star in Searching, the winning debut feature by former Google employee Aneesh Chaganty. An opening montage condensing 17 years’ worth of webcam-captured footage introduces us to David Kim (Cho), his wife Pamela (Sara Sohn) and their daughter Margot (Michelle La), who we watch grow up. Tragedy strikes, however, with the one-two punch of Pamela succumbing to cancer, followed by Margot’s mysterious disappearance. That allows Chaganty to focus on Cho as the desperate father who decides to search the one place where his daughter’s secrets will be kept: her laptop. (At Assembly Row, Boston Common, SeaportSouth Bay and in the suburbs.)

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