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Buy from Amazon

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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Don't Say a Word (2001)

"Do not try to call or signal anyone. If you do, I will kill your daughter. Not because I want to, but because those are the rules."
- Patrick (Sean Bean)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 18, 2002

Stars: Michael Douglas, Brittany Murphy, Sean Bean
Other Stars: Famke Janssen, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Oliver Platt, Jennifer Esposito
Director: Gary Fleder

MPAA Rating: R for violence, including some gruesome images, and language
Run Time: 01h:53m:26s
Release Date: February 19, 2002
UPC: 024543034056
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+A- A-

DVD Review

This is one of those beautifully shot, taut thrillers that is able to bury its questionable plot holes in visual strengths and suspense, to say nothing of a first-rate performance by Brittany Murphy. Director Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls, Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead) helms the action with real control, even if much of the film seems familiar and uses enough genre clichés to choke a healthy horse.Don't Say a Word opens in 1991 with a tense and well-executed bank heist to steal a solitary, but apparently immensely valuable, gem, led by the grim-faced Patrick (Sean Bean). The robbery ends up with a dangerous double-cross, with Patrick having the old switcheroo pulled on him by one of his gang. That propels the story ahead ten years, to present day New York City, where Patrick has just been released from prison, and he is hell bent on retrieving the missing jewel. It seems that a certain teenaged mental patient named Elizabeth (Brittany Murphy) has a 6-digit number locked away in her noggin that is the key to where the gem is hidden. Patrick and his new crew kidnap Jessie (Skye McCole Bartusiak), the six-year-old daughter of super shrink Dr. Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas), and he gives the good doctor one day to retrieve the number from within Elizabeth's tortured mind or Jessie will be killed. Patrick has assembled a high-tech collection of hidden cameras to keep tabs on Conrad, and has issued explicit instructions to not contact the police. To further complicate matters, Conrad's wife Aggie (Famke Janssen) is bed-ridden with a broken leg, so it is up to the doctor alone to save the day.There ultimately aren't a lot of surprises in Don't Say a Word, but Fleder dishes out a steady stream of palpable suspense and action that reveal a finely executed, if slightly predictable, thriller that borrows from a range of similarly-themed films, from Ransom to The Man Who Knew Too Much. Technically, this film is very well made, and Fleder moves the story along quickly to its eventual confrontation sequence.Douglas pinches off another of his dependable, workmanlike performances, and carries the lead well, but this film is owned, hands down, by Brittany Murphy, who steals every scene she is in as the troubled Elizabeth. Murphy's frantic subway recollection scene is given a significant, dramatic edge, due in no small part to her powerful, emotional delivery. Her "I'll never tell" line, which was featured so prominently in the film's ad campaign, luckily does not become an overused tagline (like "Show me the money" ), and Murphy really turns Elizabeth into a believable, deeply layered character. She is wonderful in this role, and her performance alone merits at least a rental of this disc.A lot of films have a rusty anchor that threatens to drag a project down, and here it is Jennifer Esposito's hambone portrayal of Detective Cassidy. She delivers one of those flat caricatures of a street tough detective that seems completely out of place with the rest of the characters. It's not necessarily Esposito's fault, because much of the blame has to shift to screenwriter Anthony Peckham. The character of Cassidy, who apparently never sleeps, is always one step behind the action, and her dialogue is full of clichéd drivel that would seem more at home in a bad cop show than in a thriller.I won't address some of the gaping plot holes for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say that a couple were real head scratchers. Yet somehow, Fleder is able to coat the final product with enough shine to gloss over the bumps, and make most of the flaws seem less apparent.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: A very strong, blemish-free 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer from 20th Century Fox on this one. Image detail is quite good, with a well-saturated color field. Overall cold blue hues dominate the print, and set a definite mood of suspense. Solid black levels (witness the climactic night sequence) are clean, with excellent shadow depth. Likewise, the scenes inside the mental hospital between Michael Douglas and Brittany Murphy are full of deep shadows, and this image transfer captures that well. I did notice some minor compression problems and ringing during some sequences.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishno
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno
DTSEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Don't Say a Word has two impressive audio tracks in 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS. Both tracks make full use of all available channels, creating an encompassing soundstage. Rear channels incorporate sound cues as well as music, and is mixed aggressively. While both tracks are exceptionally clean, it is the DTS mix that generates a substantial improvement in overall fidelity and depth, with more significant LFEs. Dialogue on both tracks is clear, with a nice element of spatial imaging across the three fronts, which when combined with the active rear channels, makes for a very enjoyable aural experience.A 2.0 Spanish surround track is also included (despite being listed as French on the back cover).

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Wall Street
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Gary Fleder
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Fox has centered the bulk of the extras here under the banner of Cinema Master Class, and they serve to offer a nice mix of nuts and bolts filmmaking tidbits, culminating with an informative commentary track from Fleder. The Cinema Master Class is broken down as follows:Pre-ProductionScreen Test: Brittany Murphy (6m:26s)The jewel of Don't Say a Word is the edgy turn by Murphy, and this is a six-minute, single-take clip of her screen test with Douglas. Murphy gives a powerful and moving read of Elizabeth's lines, and Fleder offers a few comments on her performance at the outset. Storyboard to Scene ComparisonsA couple of comparisons, using split screen, of the storyboards vs. the finished product. Two scenes are featured:The Bank Heist (5m:17s)Potter's Field (4m:44s)Producing Workshop with the Kopelsons (7m:31s)Unless you're fascinated by the role of the producer, this segment may be a bit dry. Arnold and Anne Kopelson explain the differences between the various types of producers, and how different crisis situations are handled. The lengthy origins of the Don't Say aWord project are also discussed.ProductionYou Are ThereAnother section narrated by Fleder, this focuses more on design elements incorporated for three set and location shots for:The Hospital (2m:50s)The Subway (2m:21s)The Dock (2m:27s)Screening Room DailiesAggie EscapesAggie's deadly battle with one of the bad guys is chronicled here, and the scene is available in sections from 9 separate angles, or viewed as a completed scene. This is a good example of how an an apparently simple scene involves multiple shots and coverage from different angles.Set Tour With Production Designer Nelson Coates (5m:40s)Coates discusses how the Fleder's intent of capturing that "70s Exorcist/French Connection look" was achieved. A tour of the Conrad's apartment set, and the elaborate chroma trans backdrop to recreate the New York skyline, is interesting, as is the transformation of a Toronto subway. Coates also gives a quick walk-thru of the climactic Hart's Island set, too.Post-ProductionConversation With Gary Fleder (6m:58s)More Fleder, onlyhere he chats about Douglas and Murphy, and how he worked to make them feel "safe." He also touches on general pre-production issues, and the importance of storyboards in staging a scene.Thriller Themes (5m:14s)Mark Isham's score is the subject here, and this brief segment features actual soundstage footage of the subway scene being performed as the dialogue-free scene plays as an inset.Inside a Scene: Trench Sequence (1m:40s)Fleder shows off and discusses the wireframe animatics that were used to plan the trench sequence. Deleted ScenesThree brief deleted sequences that are uneventful, and none offer any additional character or plot insight. The scenes are:Bridgeview Hospital HallwayConrad Bedroom: Aggie's Email ScareWarehouse Anteroom"Making Of" Featurette (7m:51s)A typical presskit fluffumentary, consisting mostly of film clips. A few snippets of interviews from the principles, and a few behind-the-scenes shots are all that is here. No real substance at all.CommentariesA full-length, scene-specific commentary from Fleder offers a nice batch of technical production information, and discusses the intricacies of set design, locations, etc. Fleder steers away from the dull narrative technique of simply describing the onscreen action, and settles in to give a genuinely informative discussion on his filmmaking style. His commentary is articulate and focused, and is one of the better tracks I have heard in recent months. A bonus set of actor commentaries are also scene-specific, but are limited to just two scenes per person, and are directly accessible via the disc menu. Michael Douglas, Brittany Murphy, Sean Bean, Famke Janssen, and Oliver Platt each get an opportunity to discuss a couple of pivotal scenes, and I found this approach to be refreshing. I would prefer to see more of this style of commentary from time to time.The disc includes 32 chapters, as well as English subtitles and a full-frame trailer for Wall Street.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

The blurb on the box from Larry King calls this "a thriller to end all thrillers." That might be overkill, but this is a nicely packaged piece of Hollywood entertainment that is dominated by an outstanding performance by Brittany Murphy. A heavy load of technical extras, as well as impressive audio mixes in 5.1 and DTS, seem to make this disc almost a required purchase for thriller fans.Recommended, despite its plot flaws.

 


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