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Don't Say a Word (Gary Fleder) 2001

It seems spring and fall, the times of year that are something less than prime time for the studios, bring a flurry of this sort of crime drama every year. In this one, Michael Douglas plays a child psychologist that must extract a secret code from a patient (Brittany Murphy) when some bank robbers kidnap his child as an incentive one New York Thanksgiving. This is the sort of upper-class thriller in which Douglas' main frustration seems to be getting his Range Rover through the traffic caused by the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. It's difficult to picture Douglas as an everyman, especially when he's wearing so much caked-on makeup. None of the thrills are very thrilling, since it's all so obviously a lark.

Still, the film isn't entirely inept. It opens with an exceptionally over directed, color-tinted bank robbery that sets up the plot. The thieves go through a lot of trouble to obtain a ruby valued at $10 million. When they begin terrorizing Douglas, several years later, their elaborate organizational network seems on par with the one in Fischner's The Game... and about as far from plausible. One must wonder how much profit these guys are going to make if they manage to get the gem. The film provides plenty of such campy bemusing distractions. The dungeon of a holding cell in the asylum Brittany Murphy's sex-kitten/demon possessed psychopath is kept in looks like some unused set from Seven with flickering lights and exceptionally dirty tile. When they tell you that she's not getting better after years in institutions, you aren't surprised. There's also something inherently fun about a film that goes to such great lengths to let Douglas frolic around with a nubile young (loony) thing and a female police detective. It even takes his wife (Famke Jansen) out of the picture by making her bedridden with a broken leg. It's a shame there's no time for hanky panky, as that's about the only thing the film leaves out. The film's director leaves no visual cliché unexamined (e.g. he spins the camera around Douglas as he finds his daughter is missing), and when he's not using one he stumbles even more so (one scene in which the characters walk up the stairs is inexplicably upside-down). Still, despite all this, it's hardly unwatchable. The film gives us at least a loose approximation of what it promises, next time lets hope there's a bit more filling in the turkey, though.


October, 2001

Jeremy Heilman