Review - Williamsport Sun-Gazette (Williamsport, PA)

Last Update: 10 October 2001

Source: Williamsport Sun-Gazette

04 October 2001

Joe Smith

If you like thrillers, let me give you a name to remember: Patrick Smith Kelly.

In 1998, Kelly scripted "A Perfect Murder," a nifty nail-biter with just the right mixture of surprise and suspense.

Now comes the sure-handed "Don't Say a Word," starring Michael Douglas as a psychiatrist whose daughter is kidnaped; for the ransom, he must extract a vital six-digit number from the brain of a silent, traumatized teen.

Kelly and co-writer Anthony Peckham rachet up suspense by tightly interlacing several story strands: the psychiatrist's wife, immobilized by a broken leg and watchfully eyed by the kidnapers; the daughter herself, who does her best to foil the captors; and a sharp-eyed detective working on two murders connected with the case.

At about mid-film, the suspense reaches a sizzling temperature -- at which point, during the show I was attending, the film itself actually burned and the movie stopped. When the lights came up and a worker came in to explain that everybody would get a refund, there was a loud collective groan.

Nobody wanted the money back; we wanted to see the rest of the picture -- a tribute to the exciting script.

(I did return for the second half on a different night -- also a tribute to Kelly and Peckham.)

Though Douglas is starting to look too old for the role of a middle-aged father, he does a solid job -- and let's face it, his name on the marquee is practically a guarantee of quality; the guy hasn't made a clunker in years.

The supporting cast is highlighted by "The Patriot's" Skye McCole Bartusiak, simply first-rate as the daughter; Brittany Murphy, magnetic but underwritten as the troubled teen; and the reliable Sean Bean heading up the crooks. After this film -- along with "Patriot Games," "GoldenEye" and "Ronin" -- Bean will be lucky if he can ever play a good guy again. (He may, however, get a chance at redemption as the ambiguous Boromir in "Fellowship of the Ring," due Dec. 19.)

Like many modern thrillers, "Don't Say a Word" has a few logisitical flaws, the chief of which is the bad guys' quarry -- a $10 million ruby. A stone of such value would be nearly impossible to sell, and thus unlikely to incite so much suffering, death and mayhem. I also found the epilog too brief and pat, as though the young woman's psychic anguish could be washed away by a torrent of the same stuff that caused it in the first place.

Nevertheless, "Don't Say a Word" is exciting, well-acted entertainment, and I'm not surprised that it took the number-one box-office spot last weekend.

The film is rated R for violence and a lot of unnecessary bad language.

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