View Date: Sept 29, 2001


Michael Douglas  Nathan Conrad
Brittany Murphy Elisabeth Burrows
Famke Janssen Aggie Conrad
Sean Bean Patrick Koster
Jennifer Esposito Det Cassidy
Oliver Platt Dr Sachs

Directed by:
Gary Fleder 

Written by
Andrew Klavan
Anthony Peckham 
Patrick Smith Kelly

Official Site:
Don't Say A Word

Related Viewings:
Along Came a Spider (2001)
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Game, The (1997)
Primal Fear (1996)

Also see my reviews at:


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Don't Say A Word

Donít worry Mr. Fleder, I wonít say a word.  Iíll say about 700, and most of them wonít be very pleasing to your ears.  Your latest effort, the pseudo psychological thriller Donít Say A Word suffers from the classic problem of having an interesting premise, and a promising beginning, but beyond that collapses and crashes into a disastrously predictable middle, and a prolonged and painful, in several ways, conclusion.  You have somehow managed to waste the talents of Douglas, a gifted and talented actor who would have fit this role to a T, since he plays manic and intense like very few, but instead you give his character little depth and turn him, and up and coming star Murphy, into pawns in a game where you seemingly donít understand the rules.  Keep it simple, yet diverse.  Donít introduce more stories than you can handle, and for the love of all things good in cinema, figure out a stopping point, one that makes sense and doesnít insult our intelligence, and stick with it.  You should be ashamed of yourself sir.  This could have been something very good, with so much potential and so many directions to go, but unfortunately, you took the path of least resistance and intelligence, and the result is something that will indeed silence its audience, in bewilderment, not amazement.

The premise, as shown in the previous, is unveiled and generates great interest.  There is a jewel heist, resulting in the theft of a very valuable jewel.  But of course, there is a twist, and not all goes as planned.  Flash forward 10 years to Douglas who is a renowned psychologist, known for his work with teens and his ability to connect with youths.  He is brought in by a friend (Platt) to help with a case involving a girl who is the epitome of a troubled child with issues.  His patient (Murphy) has displayed a convoluted series of symptoms, during her life, most of which has been spent institutionalized.  Of course, she is linked to the previous event, because the thieves kidnap Douglasís daughter, and blackmail him to obtain a number locked in the young girls head. Concurrently, we are shown a police detective (a misused Esposito) researching two mysterious murders.  What point this story serves is never explained.  What is meant to add another level to the story, only serves to convolute it even more.  Once this story starts, the slide begins, and no one is safe.  The movies final two thirds fall painfully into a chase movie, which require incredible psychological and detective skills, which would make Columbo and Freud concurrently, very proud.  The big mystery then becomes, what is the number, what does it mean, will he get it, and will he get his daughter back.  Now, a good film maker would have a suspenseful path to follow to get to this route, most likely taking us an intense ride through the battle of the minds between Murphy and Douglas, with Murphy having the upper hand, and Douglas being frantic in his wont for his daughters life.  Needless to say, this is not what we get.  The resulting final hour is a torturous slide into predictable, unbelievable, yet formulaic drivel that has become commonplace.  At some point, I remember saying ďI donít care what the number stands for, just make it stop, pleaseĒ.

Even the performers are a reflection of the waste that permeates this film, as each has proven themselves in the past, yet when given this painfully written script and the wild leaps of faith and reality that the story cannot even save it, or themselves from being thoroughly embarrassed.   Worst off is Douglas, who should have been tailor made for this role, but instead sleepwalks his away through the concerned/intellectual/vengeful role. He has done this quiet, smoldering intensity before, in Falling Down, War of The Roses and even Wall Street.  But here, he reflects more of his blander side, similar to Perfect Murder, where his mere presence, and remembrance of previous performances is supposed to suggest to us that we know how he can be, so just use our imagination, while the direct doesnít use his.   Also Murphy, for whom this should have been a breakout role, does little more than recreate her Girl, Interrupted neurotic with a few more edges. Murphy is an actress who has missed more than she has hit, but her talent shines through,regardless of the material.  She deserved a better fate from this, and is betrayed after a teasingly promising introduction. This character could have been interesting, but like Douglas, she and her character get lost, once the movie loses its way, and unfortunately, its sensibility and audience.

Ultimately, Donít Say A Word is a laborious exercise in futility that had the makings of something wonderful.  The film wanders off and gets lost, and can never find its way back, on its way to trying to please its audience and introduce red herrings, all in one fell swoop.  Felder and his writers just arenít that good.  I donít believe that itís a coincidence that one of the main characters was involved in a downhill skiing accident, because that parallels this movies fate.  It starts off fast, with hope and promise, but begins careening out of control when obstacles, such as twists or developments in plot come up, and then crashes hard, not knowing when to stop, instead sliding further and further into painful absurdity.  Donít worry Mr. Felder, as your tagline says, Iíll never tell (anyone to see this film)  ($ out of $$$$$)

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