A thriller that can’t be kept a secret

by Steven Snyder

Don’t Say A Word

Directed by Gary Fleder

(Michael Douglas, Sean Bean, Brittany Murphy, Jennifer Esposito)

Rated: R

Don’t Say A Word is a surprisingly enjoyable guilty pleasure despite its strict adherence to Hollywood convention.

On paper, its story is mediocre fodder, memorable only until the next reincarnation hits theaters. Yet, performances by a stirring Michael Douglas and a fiendish Sean Bean, as well as the tight direction of Gary Fleder (Kiss The Girls), successfully connect. What results is a delightful old-fashioned thriller complete with tears, screams and even a moonlit cemetery on a deserted island.

Douglas, in yet another perfectly suited role, is Dr. Nathan Conrad, an expert psychologist specializing in adolescents. Bean is Patrick Koster, a newly released convict; his mind firmly focused on retrieving a jewel that was stolen from him by a partner long ago. That partner’s daughter (Brittany Murphy) is now incarcerated in a mental institution and Koster believes that in her head is the secret of his lost heist, abducting Conrad’s own daughter as a means of demanding the doctor probe the recess’ of this girl’s catatonic mind.

Director Fleder brings a much-needed flare to the film. He cruises into the story, setting things quickly in motion. He adds an intense focus on seemingly mundane moments, such as entering a pass code into a keypad. His style is intriguing, making you want to kick off your shoes, grin in the darkness and prepare for the ride.

Then again, it is not difficult to succeed with such a talented core of actors under Fleder’s direction. Douglas is at his best. Just as his role threatens to wear thin, he becomes the same empowered character we have learned to love him for. When he finally makes demands of the terrorists, the audience wants to cheer. When he, as is never in doubt, fights back, the theater will applaud, delivering just what the doctor ordered.

-Steven Snyder