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Douglas rides another cash cow into the sunse

Michael Douglas has the uncanny ability to choose films that have all the right elements to be commercially successful and more often than not, help him win gold statues. As an actor he has made very few ill-advised choices with the exception of “One Night at McCool’s” and most certainly

“The War of the Roses”. Last year’s Academy Award nominated film “Traffic” was well acted, considering the fact that it could have easily played out like an after school special, but his portrayal of pothead writer Grady Tripp in “Wonder Boys” was his best in recent years.

As a producer he began his career at the top with “One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” which garnered him an Academy Award for best picture and continued to finance commercial successes like “Face Off”.

With “Don’t Say a Word” he is true to form. Douglas has played this role so many times he has turned it into an art. No one can make a situation look frantic and unbearably distressing like Michael Douglas. The film is reminiscent of “Disclosure” and “Basic Instinct” because of its suspenseful nature but has none of the gratuitous sex scenes that were so prevalent in his early ’90s work, possibly because he is getting a little too old to romp around in the sack onscreen and be considered sexy.

Douglas plays Dr. Nathan Conrad, a prominent New York Psychiatrist who must find out the location of a stolen diamond from one of his patients in order save his kidnapped daughter. The patient named Elisabeth, played by Brittany Murphy (Girl Interrupted), seems to show signs of every psychosis known to man but without the six digit number in her head – Dr. Conrad’s daughter sleeps with the fishes. The explanation behind why Elisabeth has been institutionalized since childhood is weak, allegedly she is so intelligent that she is able to mimic multiple mental disorders in order to stay hidden from the bad guys in the warm embrace of the mental hospital. This story hole is irritating but does not seem to hinder the flow of the film overall.

Dr. Conrad is in a race against time of course, because movies with time constraints are much more suspenseful than those without. He must make a serious breakthrough with Elisabeth, who has a tendency to be a violent patient, in less than 12 hours. Of course there is never a doubt that Dr. Conrad will save the day but when and how are what keeps this movie from being too formulaic.

Murphy has yet to find a strong adult voice in her work but as a girl with mental issues she shines. She has the ability to do great things later on in her career without having to deliver schlocky catch phrases like “I’ll never tell” which reeks of “I see dead people”.

Conrad’s wife, played by Famke Janssen (X-Men) has the difficult task of playing her role from the comfort of her bed. She is laid up with a broken leg and can do nothing to help her husband rescue their daughter. Janssen does a great job of expressing the terror and helplessness a parent would feel when faced with the disappearance of her child. The precocious child, played by Skye McCole Bartusiak is rather delightful and not at all annoying in that precocious child actor way. The coupling of 55-year-old Douglas with 30-something Janssen works. It is not creepy or uncomfortable like the pairing of Sean Connery with Douglas’ wife Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Entrapment”.

The film is fun to watch and would be a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon if you aren’t too busy with productive endeavors like writing papers or reading endlessly for your classes. So if you’re looking for some suspense with a good story, go out and see “Don’t Say a Word.” Even if you don’t this movie will rake in the bucks because that’s what Michael Douglas movies do best.