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Don't Say a Word

Reviewed By Brian McKay
Posted 10/03/01 15:37:14

"I'll ne-ver tell . . . anyone that this movie is actually good."
3 stars (Average)

That doesn't mean it sucks, either. But from the moment I saw Brittany Murphy singing her "I'll never tell" song in the previews, I could tell that this movie would be trying a little too hard. As it stands, it's another Michael Douglas "thriller" indistinguishable from most of his work and certainly nowhere near the league of "The Game".

Dr. Nathan Conrad (Douglas) is a fancy uptown Manhattan shrink, the cliche'd "Brilliant Psychologist" who seems to have a gift for working with young people, what his colleague, Dr. Louis Sachs (Oliver Platt) calls the "Teenage Touch" (a term which, if taken the wrong way, might mean the threat of disbarment or even a little jail time). Sachs calls Conrad over to his office on Thanksgiving eve to get his opinion on Elisabeth Burrows (Brittany Murphy), a semi-catatonic patient prone to violent outbursts. Conrad agrees to spend some time with the girl later on, but begs off early to get home to his hot wife, Aggie (Famke Jannsen), who is bedridden with a cast after a skiing accident, and his adorable, perfect Hollywood daughter Jessie (played by an overly-cute Skye McCole Bartusiak - just what we need, more up and coming 3-name celebrities).

Thanksgiving morning, however, the Conrads' world is turned upside down when they discover that someone has broken in during the night and crept off with their daughter. (Why are movie criminals always pulling this kind of shit on the holidays? Can't they just stuff their faces, get drunk, and fall asleep in front of the TV like everyone else?) They get a call from the master kidnapper (Sean Bean) who tells Nathan that the troubled girl, Elisabeth, has a six-digit number in her head that he needs. If he doesn't get it by five that afternoon, his daughter will be killed.

What follows is the typical Hollywood cat and mouse game, as Nathan tries to get the number out of Elisabeth, who has sworn to never reveal it, while also trying to outsmart the kidnappers. There is a subplot involving some murders that may or may not be related to the kidnapping, being investigated by Detective Sandra Cassidy (Jennifer Esposito). However, her portrayal of the tough female cop comes off as stilted, and does nothing to move the main story forward. Her entire role could have easily been done away with. Likewise, Oliver Platt is his usual likeable self, but he drops off halfway through the picture and is never heard from again, or missed for that matter. The remainder of the cast push the story forward to its inevitable conclusion, but fail to generate any real "WOW" type moments. Douglas is competent as always, doing the kind of role he does best as the average urban professional guy who finds himself thrust into a big conspiracy. Famke Jannsen looks good sitting on a bed in a tight T-shirt, but actually gets to leave the bed toward the end of the film. Brittany Murphy, while not terribly convincing as the nut job patient, isn't terribly unbelievable either, and Sean Bean runs through his brilliant bad guy paces.

It's not a dull film, necessarily, and I like some of the directions it took. The problem is, it takes far too many leaps of logic to get to the big plot developments, and those leaps wouldn't stop nagging me enough to let me enjoy the film. For example, when it is finally revealed what the all-important six-digit number is related too, I thought it was a pretty good twist. Then they started explaining how the importance of the six digit number came about, and the explanation fell apart. They tried much too hard, when a much simpler explanation would have sufficed and been vastly more credible. There were other jarring moments that set off the bullshit detector as well, like the fact that the crooks have hidden high tech surveillance equipment EVERYWHERE, including the girl's cell. If they were able to get the equipment INTO her cell, why wouldn't they just smuggle her OUT of the cell and interrogate her for the number they need? And how did they have the time and money to get all this gear together when they all supposedly just got out of prison?

This could have been a pretty tight little thriller if it weren't for the gaping, bleeding plot bulletholes. What we ended up with, though, was something just entertaining enough to kill a couple of hours on a slow afternoon, and be completely forgotten after that.

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