Don't Say a Word

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Review byMatthew Turner22/02/2002

Two out of five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Routine thriller-by-numbers that coasts on its performances and can't even be bothered to throw in a decent twist or two to perk things up a bit.

The publicity for Don't Say A Word rather misleadingly suggests that it will be one of those thrillers that hits you with a Killer Twist at the end. This is a bit of a problem, because no such twist exists and as such, when it's all over, your main reaction may well be one of 'Is that it then?' Either that, or you will still be wondering what on earth Michael Douglas has had done to his eyes, which look decidedly odd throughout the film.

Douglas stars as Dr Nathan Conrad, one of those only-in-the-movies 'brilliant' psychologists, with a perfect wife (Famke Janssen, who spends practically the entire film in bed with a broken leg) and an adorable daughter (Skye Bartusiak). Things take an unpleasant turn, however, when his daughter is kidnapped, and Douglas finds he has less than 24 hours to extract a numerical code from his catatonic patient (Brittany Murphy) or the kidnappers (led by Sean Bean) will murder his daughter.

The film is annoying on many levels. For one thing it will have you asking questions such as 'If the kidnappers have enough money to bug Douglas's apartment and install hidden cameras everywhere AND to bug Brittany Murphy's hospital room, then why do they need the money they're looking for?'

It also seems a little hard to believe that they could install themselves and all their electronic equipment into someone else's flat in an apartment building without anyone noticing (conveniently, they move in just upstairs from Douglas and Janssen).

The casting is also irritating. Douglas is watchable as always and does a competent job, but he's much more interesting when he's playing morally ambiguous or unlikeable characters, such as in…well, such as in almost every other film he's ever been in.

Similarly, Sean Bean hams it up the way that only Sean Bean can - he must be sick and tired of playing villains by now. The normally reliable Oliver Platt is also around, as Douglas' colleague and best friend, but his character is abruptly dropped for no good reason.

It's left to the female characters to provide the best performances: Janssen doing her own mini-version of Rear Window; Murphy (over-doing it) adding another performance to her gallery of kooky characters, Bartusiak 'charming' the kidnappers and Jennifer Esposito, who is wasted as a cop piecing it all together but remaining two steps behind throughout. Sadly, the film itself doesn't really warrant the effort they put into it.

If you can forgive its occasional slides into silliness, then Don't Say A Word is just about watchable. It's instantly forgettable, though, with the most shocking or disturbing thing about it being Michael Douglas' afore-mentioned odd-looking eyes.

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Content updated: 25/01/2020 11:49

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