DON'T SAY A WORD
Rated R - Running Time: 1:53 - Released 9/28/01
Michael Douglas is back to doing what he does best in Gary Fleder's Don't Say A Word, namely playing the part of a regular guy under the control of a psycho. Based on the book by Andrew Klavan, adapted for the screen by Anthony Peckham and Patrick Smith Kelly, this is a first-class child-abduction thriller not unlike many we've seen before (including Fleder's own Kiss The Girls), but it's generally effective despite the well-worn pretext and a few credibility gaps. Douglas heads a talented cast, bringing his own patented sweaty calm to the table and laying it on with the judicious subtlety of a pro. Director Fleder, who has taken time out to do some TV directing in the last few years, returns for his first feature film since Girls, showing he's still got the knack for crafting a standard 2-hour thriller that would make even the most jaded moviegoer fidget.
Douglas plays New York psychologist Dr. Nathan Conrad, whose
expertise with mentally disturbed youths brings him in contact
with 18-year-old wacko Elizabeth Burrows (Brittany Murphy), who
apparently just killed a man with her bare hands for some mysterious
reason. On their first meeting, she tells Dr. Conrad, "You
want what they want;" although he is baffled as to what this
means, he soon finds out when his own 8-year-old daughter Jessie
(Skye McCole Bartusiak) is abducted. Over the phone, the head
kidnapper (Sean Bean) tells him that Elizabeth has a six-digit
number buried somewhere in her subconscious, and if he ever wants
to see Jessie again, he'd better get it out of her by sundown.
Having no idea what the number is for, he leaves his distraught
wife Aggie (Famke Janssen), who is in traction with a broken leg,
at home and attempts to get to the bottom of Elizabeth's troubled
As it turns out, the number will reveal the location of a priceless
red diamond which Elizabeth's deceased father stole from the heavies
10 years ago during a bank robbery. Since then, they have been
serving time for killing him, and she has been descending into
madness from watching them kill him. But Dr. Conrad knows none
of this, nor does NYPD Detective Sandra Cassidy (Jennifer Esposito),
working independently on the case. Also present is Oliver Platt
as Conrad's colleague, Dr. Louis Sachs, who is equally tense but
not nearly as cool under pressure. Eventually, just about all
of the above come together at a cemetery on Hart Island for an
old-fashioned game of Who-Gets-To-Inhabit-The-Freshly-Dug-Grave.
Hint: it isn't Michael Douglas.
This is one of those films where the crooks have apparently
unlimited financial resources, affording them the most state-of-the-art
equipment with which to carry out their shadowy agenda, including
high-end computers, cell phones, and various strategically placed
surveillance devices, even though no one explains how they get
them into the places they are. For instance, they not only have
at least four different cameras in Conrad's apartmentso
they can watch his sexy, bed-bound wife from every angle in case
she decides to strip for their entertainmentbut also a hidden
microphone in Elizabeth's cell at the psycho ward. I mean, how
did they know she was going to get that room?
But despite its sometimes befuddling details, Don't Say A Word is definitely effective at its purpose of maintaining tension. Director Fleder gets the ol' pressure cooker going and raises the temperature steadily during the entire show, and Douglas does his part as the man under pressure. It's just too bad Glen Close isn't around to boil up some rabbit stew. ****