Psychiatrist Nathan Conrad has until 5pm to elicit a six-digit number from a mock-catatonic girl, or a kidnapper will murder his daughter. Meanwhile, his wife suspects the villains are invading their apartment and a persistent cop is putting the story together
As Hitchcock demonstrated, a good suspense thriller doesn't have to be credible, only convincing. Unfortunately, Don't Say A Word rarely manages to make you forget its blatant silliness.
Brilliant, wealthy, family-oriented shrink Dr. Nathan Conrad is one of those characters who could never exist outside an airport paperback. His elaborately cute wife and daughter turn out to be so resourceful, cunning and devious that British baddie Sean Bean and his mob of low-rent thugoids never come across as a real menace, since you know they'll only get to kill anonymous bit-part characters.
Gary Fleder made his debut with the eccentric Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, then shot the solidly average Kiss The Girls.Don't Say A Word, mildly reminiscent of Ransom, is an even blander star-vehicle thriller. Douglas jogs around a holidaying New York as the suspense screws tighten, and through a lot of directorial murk spread around as the not-very-elaborate plotline comes together and then falls apart.
Fleder's one distinctive touch is to jumble the story through intercutting, so that we have simultaneously to keep track of Douglas' sessions with Murphy, Murphy's explanatory flashbacks, Janssen's cat-and-mouse business with menacing home invaders, the little girl's wooing of the least-ruthless kidnapper and cop Jennifer Esposito's picking up of the plot pieces.
Towards the end, in a sequence set on a foggy burial island where the atmospherics crank up, it tries to play the Straw Dogs game with Dad becoming an action man in defence of family. But Douglas is too obviously cuddly to partake in a one-on-one with Bean, and so comeuppances have to be arranged via contrived double-crosses or acts of a scriptwriter.
There are more implausibilities than surprises, and Douglas can do this in his sleep, but the female cast especially the always-welcome Janssen try harder.