Don’t Say a Word

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“Don’t Say a Word” should not exist. It is neither a bad movie nor a good one. It is neither original nor trite. It arouses no strong feelings of any kind, positive or negative. It just sits there, occupying space.

There’s a psychiatrist named Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas) whose daughter, Jessie (Skye McCole Bartusiak), gets kidnapped Thanksgiving morning by bad guys who stole a $10 million ruby 10 years ago and now need Conrad’s help in finding it.

Apparently, one of Conrad’s patients, a complete psycho teen named Elisabeth (Brittany Murphy), knows a six-digit number that will tell the robbers where the ruby is. Either Conrad worms the number out of her, or the bad guys kill Jessie.

Conrad’s wife (Famke Janssen), meanwhile, is bed-ridden with a broken leg. The villains have put cameras and microphones everywhere, too, so they can make sure no one alerts the police.

Meanwhile, there’s hot detective Cassidy (Jennifer Esposito) who is investigating two homicides. These seem to be in a different (though still uninteresting) movie, though it eventually ties in with the main plot, albeit in a non-intriguing way.

“Don’t Say a Word” isn’t filled with cliches, but it doesn’t break new ground, either. The few engaging avenues that are initiated — the surveillance, for example — are not developed beyond the obvious. It’s as if someone (we’ll go ahead and blame director Gary Fleder) purposely blocked off all attempts to do something new.

Jennifer Esposito’s detective character is laughable. We hear her end of a telephone conversation with someone who apparently is a loved one — and that’s the extent of what we know about her. That she has a friend. She, like the movie itself, is a non-entity.

And Michael Douglas? Oh, he’s fine. You know how he is. His character just has to be worried, occasionally frantic, heroic once or twice.

I’m not even sure it’s accurate to say I watched this movie. The movie took place, and I pointed my head in the direction of it, and my senses were alert. But to credit the movie with having prompted such action as WATCHING may be going too far. It’s not interesting enough to watch, and not dull enough to walk out of. It prompts a mild state of catatonia, and nothing more.

C (; R, some harsh profanity, some crude sexual dialogue, some strong violence.)

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