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Laramie Movie Scope:
Don't Say a Word

Passable child-in-jeopardy thriller

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 1, 2002 -- "Don't Say a Word" is another one of those child-in-jeopardy thrillers starring Michael Douglas. It is passable entertainment, but don't look for many surprises. It is pretty much by the book.

Douglas ("Traffic") stars as hot shot psychiatrist Dr.Nathan Conrad. His daughter is kidnapped and the ransom demand is that he must extract a six-digit number from the mind of a mental hospital patient, Elisabeth Burrows (Brittany Murphy of "Riding in Cars With Boys"), and he has to get the number in less than seven hours. The number is the key to recovering a valuable ruby stolen in a robbery years before by a band of crooks led by Patrick Koster (Sean Bean of "Ronin"). One of Koster's fellow crooks palmed the ruby years ago and Koster has been trying to find it ever since.

Conrad must race across town to get to the mental hospital, research Burrows' medical records, interview Burrows and get the number before his daughter is killed. Not only that, but it is Thanksgiving Day, and Conrad has to cross the Thanksgiving Day Parade route to get to the hospital. There is a lot more high-speed running around besides just the trip to the hospital. Conrad must also transform himself into an action hero to save his daughter.

The story is not believable, but it is an entertaining yarn, with lots of tension and excitement. First of all, the crooks who capture Conrad's daughter are so well organized and so well financed, that they really don't need the ruby in the first place, and if they wanted it that bad, they could have found it themselves without all the risk and expense of this elaborate kidnapping scheme. The crooks have a very expensive bank of video monitors, and remote cameras planted all over town. They've also got people following everyone.

Douglas is very good in the lead role. He's had lots of experience at this kind of role: an everyman, galvanized into action by terrible circumstances to take desperate measures. Sean Bean is also very effective as the villain, a role in which he has been typecast. Famke Janssen of "The X-Men" turns in a solid performance as Conrad's wife, Aggie, and Skye McCole Bartusiak is good as Conrad's daughter, Jessie. Brittany Murphy turns in an excellent performance in the showy role of the crazy girl with the secret. Oliver Platt of "Bicentennial Man") turns in his usual solid performance as Louis Sachs, another psychiatrist. Director Gary Fleder ("Kiss the Girls") knows how to keep the dramatic tension going in this kind of film. It is a well-acted and well-executed film, but is hurt by the common-sense flaws in the plot. This film rates a C+.

I saw this film on DVD, and although the picture was sharp, the color was greenish in some interior scenes, perhaps because of flourescent lighting used in many interior shots. DVD features include widescreen anamorphic format, trailer, "making of" video, set tour, film score video, screening room dailies, Brittany Murphy screen test, storyboards compared to final screen version and deleted scenes.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2002 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)