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Don't Say A Word...

Movie Review: Don't Say A Word
Starring: Michael Douglas, Sean Bean, Brittany Murphy, Famke Janssen, Oliver Platt, Jennifer Esposito,
                 Skye McCole Bartusiak,
Director: Gary Fleder

Don't Say a Word is one of those thrillers that seems to have most of the elements of a top-notch nailbiter, but can't seem to put them all together. So, instead of developing a growing sense of dread, this movie believes that occasional, quick bursts of staple action are

necessary to keep audiences awake. In the place of consistent psychological tension, we are saddled with shoot-outs, chases, and fight scenes - all of which make the final product come across as more hackneyed and less credible than the average thriller.
The film opens with a jewel theft that occurred 10 years ago in Brooklyn that ends in a double-cross. Skipping to the present, it homes in on Dr. Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas), a New York  psychiatrist trying to get home on the afternoon before Thanksgiving. He first must stop, however, at a mental hospital where a colleague (Oliver Platt) has asked him to look at a particularly troubled

patient named Elisabeth Burrows (Brittany Murphy).
Although she's catatonic, she talks to Conrad. But her gibberish -something about him "wanting what they want" -- anduncontrolled outbursts offer few clues to her problem.

The next morning, Conrad prepares breakfast for his 8-year-old daughter (Skye McCole Bartusiak) and his bed-ridden wife (Famke Janssen), who has a broken leg. But as he goes to rouse his daughter to go to the Thanksgiving Day parade, he discovers that she's missing from the apartment -- and that the chain on the front door has been cut.
Before he can call the police, however, he gets a call from the kidnappers, who offer an ultimatum. If he wants to see his daughter alive, he must go back to Burrows and extract from her a number that is locked in her memory. To do so, he'll have to get through to a woman who has spent a

lifetime shuffling between mental institutions, who is barely coherent and who doesn't trust doctors to boot.
He has to do all this in less than eight hours or his daughter will die. Douglas has the adrenalized jitter of a truly desperate man (though for a doctor, he's a mean kick-boxer), while Sean Bean (as kidnapper Koster) reprises the flinty villain role he played in Patriot

Games and Goldeneye. But they and the rest of the cast are going through the motions here, unaided by the alternately fussy and routine direction of Gary Fleder.
Douglas certainly has had plenty of moments to shine in his career, but this isn't one of them. He plays it pretty straight and boring, leaving nothing to let him stretch his acting abilities. Following along the same lines, Bean, another fine actor who rarely gets to break out of the bad guy role, plays a cookie-cutter villain with nothing more than his menacing looks and voice to keep him going. Murphy's performance as the complex Elisabeth has been. talked about as Oscar bait-but we are

not sure why. What starts off as an intriguing portrayal of yet another mentally disturbed character--her other being her role in Girl, Interrupted, which was much more interesting--dissolves into a lost-little-Esposito (Summer of Sam) as a detective hot on the jewel thieves' trail. girl syndrome. Actually, the two characters that stand out are Bartusiak as the spunky daughter and Jennifer

Word starts off with such a bang, you immediately get involved and think it may actually be a good movie. Director Gary Felder takes us right into Conrad's happy world and then turns it upside down when Conrad realizes what he must do to get his daughter back. It may be hard to believe Patrick, after spending the last 10 years in jail, would know that Elisabeth holds the key to finding the gem, but the cat-and-mouse game Elisabeth plays with Dr. Conrad is fascinating. This plot device could have been taken into so many different directions, especially since Douglas and Murphy have a very

interesting rapport. Even the subplot involving the little girl and her attempts to escape, while her mother, with a broken leg, tries desperately to find her,could have been taken further. But the film goes ahead and ends predictably, and we're left saying how much better we could have made it.


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