Brittany Murphy, Michael Douglas, ...
Credit: Don't Say a Word: Ava Gerlitz

If there’s such a thing as joyless competence, it’s exemplified by the grimly sensational kidnap thriller Don’t Say a Word. Michael Douglas plays a posh psychiatrist on the Upper West Side of Manhattan who faces off against the hooligan (Sean Bean) who abducted his 8-year-old daughter (Skye McCole Bartusiak). But long before Douglas, in his usual manner, demonstrates that sane, compassionate family men can get mad as hell too, he has already proved himself such a paragon of modern-enlightened-male diligence and sensitivity that his ability to foil the kidnappers practically seems an afterthought. In the opening half hour alone, he expertly counsels a pimply young panty fetishist; picks up a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner; does an impromptu pro bono session with a psycho teenager (Brittany Murphy) who took a razor to a hospital orderly; and gives his wife (Famke Janssen), who has a broken leg, an amorous sponge bath. What Gordon Gekko was to greed, this guy is to saintly professional and domestic multitasking.

The schizo slasher has a secret the kidnapper badly needs to know, and Douglas, using his psychoanalytical acumen, has until 5 p.m. to extract it from her. There’s a taut scene with Douglas tricking his way through Thanksgiving Day traffic, and another one with Janssen, in traction, taking on an armed henchman through sheer maternal will. Yet the heart of the movie is dull: Brittany Murphy’s puzzle-brained psycho has too few layers, and the unraveling of her mystery is telegraphed and flashbacked to the point of numb monotony. There is, in addition, a major dangling plot strand: She’s supposed to metamorphose into a sympathetic character — but if that’s the case, what in God’s name does the movie expect us to think about the poor guy she slashed?

Don't Say a Word
  • Movie
  • 110 minutes