There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Even the bad guys no longer take Michael Douglas seriously. About halfway through Don’t Say a Word, after Douglas’ Dr. Conrad turns from soft, Land Rover-driving psychiatrist into angry, improbable action hero, his sudden tough talk makes him look as foolish as if he’d married a woman half his age. Conrad, menacingly: “When they’re done with us, they’ll be done with you!” Bad guy, dismissively: “Just keep walking.” Conrad’s white-collar world is turned upside down when a band of thieves kidnaps his daughter, Jessie (Skye McCole Bartusiak), and tasks him with retrieving a number from the mind of his catatonic patient Elisabeth (perfectly creepy Brittany Murphy). (The kidnappers, somehow sharp enough to target Conrad immediately after his brief initial meeting with Elisabeth, have inexplicably been waiting 10 years for this information, which will lead them to a precious jewel.) Given a deadline of 5 p.m. the day his daughter is discovered missing, Conrad makes miraculous progress with the patient who’s been in and out of hospitals since she was 8, when she witnessed her dad’s murder by the same crooks. Another just-barely related storyline involves hardworking Detective Cassidy (Jennifer Esposito, looking slightly less trashy than usual), who’s investigating the appearance of a couple of beaten-up bodies that have washed ashore, apparently mangled at the hands of, you guessed it, those busy jewel thieves/kidnappers/purveyors of torture. Don’t Say a Word has its share of bad-movie touches—an ominous windshield reflection of a Bart Simpson parade float, Jessie’s favorite; a parodic exchange when father and daughter meet again: “Daddy?” “Jessie?” “Daddy?” “Jessie?”—as well as a plot that appears slick only if you don’t ask too many questions. But the gritty blues and grays of each respectably tense action sequence, anchored by Murphy’s disturbing performance in a role that could have easily turned into a joke, help transform the film into a watchable-enough psychological thriller. —Tricia Olszewski