Don't Say a Word

Don't Say a Word has its suspenseful moments, but not enough to overcome some of the more mundane plot elements present. Michael Douglas (One Night at McCool's, Traffic) is again playing the same role he seems to relish; that of the older, richer man who ends up in over his head. He is Dr. Nathan Conrad, a happily married psychiatrist, hoping to spend some quality time with his family on Thanksgiving. Then, a friend calls him for a consultation on Elisabeth Burrows (Brittany Murphy, Summer Catch, Cherry Falls), a troubled young woman. Things for Conrad quickly escalate out of control in director Gary Fleder's (Kiss the Girls, Things to do in Denver When You're Dead) of Andrew Klavan's novel.

Burrows has a six-digit number in her head that Patrick Koster (Sean Bean, Essex Boys, Ronin) wants. He is looking for a gem he lost in a bank heist years ago, and Burrows has something to do with this. Koster kidnaps Conrad's young daughter Jessie (Skye McCole Bartusiak, The Patriot, The Cider House Rules), giving Conrad a small amount of time to retrieve the number. Meanwhile, Conrad's wife Aggie (Famke Janssen, Made, X-Men) is bedridden at home with a broken leg. Koster has cameras everywhere and spies following Conrad wherever he goes. Koster wants Conrad to get the number in return for the safe return of his daughter. At the same time, Fleder cuts to Detective Sandra Cassidy (Jennifer Esposito, Dracula 2000, Summer of Sam), who is investigating the circumstances of a dead body found in the river. Of course the two cases are inexplicably linked, or else there would be no reason for the Cassidy character. It's just a matter of waiting to see where Anthony Peckham and Patrick Smith Kelly's (A Perfect Murder) adaptation leads.

Murphy is excellent as Burrows. Conrad deduces that she is not mentally ill, and is pretending. Still, she is effective at presenting the portrait of an emotionally troubled woman dealing with many issues. Murphy easily morphs from one role to another, nearly unrecognizable from movie to movie. She gives a strong, eerie performance, which is much better than Douglas'. He is merely playing going through the steps he has countless times before. His character undergoes a transformation near the end of Don't Say a Word that does not match his character, even with all the stress he is undergoing.

There is also the issue of the inevitable ending. Everybody knows what is going to happen; there are very few movies in this genre that do anything original. It's understandable that Koster wants the jewel in a hurry, but he should be smart enough to know that coaxing information out of a mental patient takes time. He waited for years for the opportunity to get close to Burrows, so waiting a little longer shouldn't be a problem. Koster's omnipresence and Conrad's inability to contact the police also adds distaste to the story. Overall, Don't Say a Word has its moments, but not enough to of them to distinguish it.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 52 minutes, Rated R for violence, including some gruesome images, and language.

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