Don't Say A Word (2001), Cert 15.

Director - Gary Felder.

Writers - Andrew Klavan & Anthony Peckham.

Starring - Michael Douglas, Sean Bean, Brittany Murphy, Famke Janssen, Oliver Platt & Jennifer Esposito.


Premise - Dr. Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas) is a brilliant, high flying psychiatrist, he is brought in to look at the case of Elisabeth Burrows (Brittany Murphy), a complex teenager who has a dark secret hidden in her mixed up head. When Conrad's daughter is kidnapped by people who want the secret, Conrad finds himself racing against the clock to get what the crooks want from Burrows head in exchange for the life of his little girl.

Don't Say A Word is about as safe as Hollywood thrillers get. From the start we see Douglas portrayed as a loving family man with a beautiful young wife and an unfeasibly cute 8 year old daughter. Since we know that this is a mainstream Hollywood movie we can extrapolate certain things. Douglas' family will not be harmed in any way, this is a given and since the audience knows this it automatically undermines any threat that the villains should have. Any feeling of dread or tension is therefore sucked clean out of the movie leaving what is a barely passable thriller with some nice performances.

As safe and formulaic as the film is there are one or two things that I did really enjoy about the movie. The scenes with Conrad and Burrows in the mental hospital were both well written and well executed. Brittany Murphy really impressed me in this film, in a role that reminded me heavily of Edward Norton's breakthrough performance in 'Primal Fear'. Her portrayal of a teenager who may or may not have various mental conditions was wholly convincing. She played off Douglas well and these moments were among my favorites in the film.

Douglas' Conrad is the kind of character that only exists in the world of film. A man with an idyllic family life and a well paying job, I very much doubt that such people actually wander the earth. At any rate Douglas can do the happy family man routine in his sleep and only in the scenes with Murphy do we see Douglas shifting out of first gear. The desperation as he quizzes Murphy comes through nicely as he lands a good balance between trying to eke the information from her without blowing his professional cool.

Sean Bean is good as rent-a-badguy Patrick Loster, given that the very nature of the film robs him of any menace he does well to come through with any credibility. Famke Janssen is underused as Douglas' bed ridden wife and for the most part she has little to do, but look suitably distressed. Later she has more to do, but the scene in question is so unlikely that it begs belief. Oliver Platt is Oliver Platt, I'm no fan of his acting and I had his particular plot 'twist' guessed the second I saw him walk onto the screen.

Jennifer Esposito is without question very easy on the eye and she may be a capable actress given the right role. However, I just didn't buy her for one second as a tough, sassy police detective. She runs around the city chasing dead bodies and we know that at some point her investigation is going to lead her to Douglas'. When she does catch up with Douglas it becomes clear that the entire reason for her character and her story arc is so she can dispose of the penultimate bad guy. This handily leaves Douglas and Bean alone to get it on in the ludicrously unbelievable denouement.

In a final 20 minutes which manages to squeeze in more Hollywood thriller clichés than I thought possible we see a psychiatrist beat down a hardened criminal and then hug and kiss his family on a dock wrapped in a blanket. Clearly the writers had the big book of Hollywood clichés open when they were putting this claptrap together.

Director Gary Felder (who gave us the not half bad 'Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead' and the eerily similar to this movie, 'Kiss The Girls') tries to give the film a bit of oomph through some nice visuals, most notably in the later scenes in the graveyard, but he's whizzing in the wind against the awful script.

Aside from some good performances and the intriguing scenes in the mental hospital Don't Say A Word is about as hackneyed and bog standard as a thriller can be. If you’re looking for a throwaway, no brainier then by all means, help yourself. Those looking for something with a bit of an edge or some originality would be better served looking elsewhere for their kicks.



See Don't Say A Word if you enjoyed - Primal Fear, Kiss The Girls, Ransom, The Game.

Poster Quote - Shhhhh, don't tell anyone about this film.