…I'll never tell.
Who else plays the "elite business man forced to defend his family and become a vengeful pit bull" role better than Michael Douglas? While Douglas is an accomplished actor in both the comedic and dramatic genres, it's really movies like The Game, Basic Instinct, Wall Street and A Perfect Murder that conjure up screen memories of Douglas, playing either an affable rich guy with a good looking wife and/or girlfriend, or portraying a sleazy rich guy who screws good looking wives/and or girlfriends. Either way, no one looks the part of a rich industrialist better than Mr. Douglas. In Gary Felder's (Kiss The Girls) dark thriller Don't Say A Word, Douglas plays…well, a typical Douglas role. But hey, at least it's done with style and panache. Also starring Brittany Murphy (Clueless), Famke Janssen (X-Men), Oliver Platt (Lake Placid), and Sean Bean (Goldeneye), Don't Say A Word whispers its name on DVD care of Fox Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Nathan Conrad (Douglas) is a successful child psychiatrist who lives in New York with his lovely wife Aggie (Janssen) and their adorable daughter Jessie (Skye McCole Bartusiak). Things just couldn't be better for the Conrad's…until a gang of thugs looking to retrieve a six digit number from a mentally deranged girl's head kidnaps their daughter! (Okay, we can all breathe now.) The unstable Elisabeth (played with manic eeriness by Brittany Murphy) saw her father killed by the gang in a subway station ten yeas ago, led by the murderous and sadistic Patrick (an evil, full-tilt performance by Sean Bean). Patrick is now holding Conrad's daughter hostage and will release her only after Conrad has retrieved the numbers from Elisabeth's head. With time running out and his daughter's life on the line, Conrad must do his job to the best of his abilities—or risk losing his family forever!
Blockbuster should have its own section for Michael Douglas thrillers. I have a soft spot in my heart for Douglas' movies—there's just something about him that's entertaining to watch. On the periphery of sounding like a movie preview, he's the best there is at what he does.
Don't Say A Word doesn't really add a whole lot to the suspense genre (it plays just above a "movie of the week" on TV). The plot is just a general spin on the old "urban upscale professional in trouble" idea, and of course there's the end scene where the villain and the hero have a nice little mano-a-mano fight to the death. In between we get Douglas looking frantic, his wife screaming out phrases like "just bring my daughter back alive!" and the villain gnashing his teeth as if he were trying to utilize his jaw as a grinding instrument to form corn into tortillas.
The idea of the movie, that Douglas must pry information out of a mentally disturbed girl's head before five o'clock, is a fun way to move the plot forward. There are some pretty tense scenes in Don't Say A Word, and each one seems more exasperating than the next. As the Douglas character becomes more and more frantic, this movie keeps picking up pace as if we were watching a large snowball gaining momentum downhill. Everyone in the movie does their part well, including Brittany Murphy as the mentally ill girl who chirps the now famous "I'll never tell…" line. Murphy is very convincing, as is Sean Bean, who also played a scary and calculating villain opposite Pierce Brosnan's James Bond in Goldeneye. Director Gary Felder shows that he has an eye for this type of material (drab blues and grays pepper the landscapes), and much like his Morgan Freeman hit Kiss The Girls, Don't Say A Word is just a big old potboiler that, while not original (it does take much inspiration from the Mel Gibson thriller Random), at least offers up a fast paced story and some genuine thrills.
Just an observation: on the cover of the case Larry King is quoted saying that Don't Say A Word is "a thriller to end all thrillers!" When, exactly, did Larry King become a discernable film reviewer whose opinion actually matters? Anyone? Anyone?
Don't Say A Word is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. While a small amount of halo and edge enhancement persist, overall this is a very nice looking transfer. The colors are bright and bold with no signs of bleeding, and the black levels display a very solid image that is pleasing to the eye. No digital artifacting or shimmer was spotted. Fox has done a very nice job on this transfer which should please fans.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as DTS 5.1 Surround. Both of these tracks are excellent utilizing the bass, front, and rear speakers during most of the film. I was impressed with how bombastic and full this track ended up being considering it's not really an action movie but a thriller. All aspects of the dialogue, effects, and Mark Isham's tense music score are free of any distortion or hiss. Also included on this disc is a French 2.0 soundtrack as well as English subtitles.
Don't Say A Word features a ton of supplemental material for fans to wade through. Starting off this disc are some screen-specific commentaries by actors Michael Douglas, Sean Beam, Brittany Murphy, Famke Jannssen, and Oliver Platt. The great thing about these commentaries is that you don't have to search through the entire film to find each person's comments—these are all accessed through a menu that let's you skip right to the actor's track. Each of these actors have a lot to say about their characters and their involvement in making Don't Say A Word. A second commentary is available by director Gary Felder. At first the track seemed a bit bland, though as I settled into it, it was apparent that Felder had a great deal of knowledge about the film, its production, and its origins. Much information is shared about the lighting techniques and uses of CGI in the film, as well as info about how some shots showing the Twin Towers were changed prior to its theatrical release in late September 2001. As a whole, all of these commentaries comprise a wealth of behind-the-scenes information on the film.
Next is a section called "Cinema Master's Class," which is set up in three different sections: pre-production. Production and post production. Under "pre-production" there are three different options. The first is a screen test of actress Brittany Murphy introduced by the director, the second a few storyboard to screen comparisons for two separate scenes, and a producing workshop with Anne and Arnold Kopelson. The latter of the three is the most interesting, though both the Kopelsons seem a bit hard-edged and very "Hollywoodish." Arnold Kopelson is the dominant talker here, discussing what the role of the producer is and how Don't Say A Word came into his hands.
In the "production" section there are also three sections to browse through, including "You Are There," which includes three scenes where the viewer gets to watch as a behind-the-scenes participant with director Gary Felder commenting on filmmaking, the scenes, and the movie in general. A few dailies are featured in nine multiple angles (to give the viewer an idea how many angles it takes to comprise a shot), as well as the final scene. Last in this section is a set tour with production designer Nelson Coates. Coates walks us around the set and discusses different aspects of the production design, from Conrad's apartment to the subway interior. As a point of interest, I'd like to mention that I have had lunch with Mr. Coates on two occasions (he is the son of my dad's former college roommate, or something like that). He seemed nice enough, though after the second lunch I never heard from him again. Mr. Coates, if you're reading this, email me! I need a job!
In the "Post-Production" section there is a conversation with director Gary Felder that features Felder discussing acting styles, how to be a good director, and doting a bit on Michael Douglas and Brittany Murphy. "Thriller Themes" sees Felder talking about scoring the movie, and includes an area where the screen is split into two sections: the sound stage scoring with composer Mark Isham and the finished scene being scored. This is an interesting feature, though I was a bit disappointed at the lack of involvement by composer Mark Isham. Finally we get something titled "Inside a Scene: Trench Sequence" that takes a look at how the CGI involvement helped create one of the final scenes.
Three deleted scenes are available that are somewhat short and not all that interesting. It's fairly obvious why they ended up on the cutting room floor. Finally there is a "Making Of Don't Say A Word" featurette (runs a little over seven minutes and is just your typical promo fluff), a few vital statistics and bios on the cast and crew, and a trailer for the DVD release of the Michael Douglas flick Wall Street.
It's not original, nor will it knock your socks off. Don't Say A Word wins no awards in any categories, except for the "It My Be Fluff, But It's Entertaining Fluff" category. Yes, stand up and take a bow Mr. Douglas, your ship has come in, and it's called "thrillers." Fox has put a lot of work into this disc (maybe even more than was warranted) and comes out with a winner.
Don't Say A Word is innocent! Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track with Director Gary Felder
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