Don't Say A Word

2001, Movie, R, 110 mins


A kidnapped eight-year-old, a desperate father and a mental patient who knows something a gang of ruthless criminals would kill to find out: This gloomy, race-against-time thriller starts out well, establishing a situation that's both suspenseful and mysterious. Who is Elisabeth Burrows (Brittany Murphy), the battered and violent teenager whom sleek psychiatrist Dr. Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas) agrees to treat — on the night before Thanksgiving, no less — as a favor to a beleaguered colleague (Oliver Platt)? What is the mysterious number that bad guy Patrick Koster (Sean Bean) wants so desperately he's willing to make off with Conrad's little girl, Jesse (Skye McCole Bartusiak), and keep the doctor and his wife (Famke Janssen) under constant surveillance in order to force Conrad to get the information out of Elisabeth? And how, exactly, is all this woe related to the jewel heist Koster and a four-man crew pulled off ten years earlier? They escaped with a red diamond worth $10 million, but in the aftermath, two thieves betrayed the other three and decamped with the gem. And while we're asking questions, what about that waterlogged corpse NYPD Detective Cassidy (Jennifer Esposito) has on her hands — is this dead girl also somehow connected to Koster, Burrows and Conrad's dilemma? The clock is ticking, and Conrad is faced with the near-impossible task of cutting through Elisabeth's elaborate psychological defenses, forged and refined over the course of a decade of institution-hopping, in a single afternoon: If he doesn't have the number for Koster by 5 pm, Jesse will die. It all makes for a fine puzzle, but as each new piece is added, the overall picture becomes less interesting. Based on the Edgar Award-winning novel by Andrew Klavan (True Crime) and directed by Gary Fleder, this by-the-numbers (no pun intended) psychological thrill ride is efficient and utterly soulless. The baddies are bad, the good guys are pure of heart, and the cinematography is suitably dispiriting, all blue and gray and bilious green. The story comes to a predictable mano-a-mano climax, cleverly designed to let our hero have his moral cake and eat it too. Koster gets exactly what's coming to him (which will come as no surprise to anyone), but circumstances are rigged to ensure that Conrad doesn't stain his soul meting it out, since this would make him less of a hero in contemporary Hollywood's warped form of ethical reckoning. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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