Directed by Gary Fleder starring Michael Douglas, Brittany Murphy, Sean Bean and Famke Janssen.

The successful man who ends up in way over his head: Michael Douglas has been picking up cheques for that particular role as far back as 1984's 'The Star Chamber'. But after doing his CV the power of good by signing up for both 'Wonder Boys' and Traffic, 'Don't Say a Word' finds him playing with an almost religious devotion to type.

Here Douglas is Nathan Conrad, the New York psychiatrist whose daughter is kidnapped by the just-out-of jail, English and therefore very ruthless Patrick Koster (Bean). Bean needs to find out where the booty from a jewel heist is hidden, but the only person who knows is Elisabeth (Murphy), the teenage daughter of his deceased double-crossing partner. Trouble is, having witnessed the murder of her father a decade earlier, Elisabeth has spent ten years gazing at four walls under very heavy sedation. But that's where Conrad comes in.

Fleder's debut 'Things to do in Denver While You're Dead' was a stylish, lippy gangster movie but he followed it up with the very average 'Kiss the Girls'. While in no way as plodding as that particular outing, 'Don't Say a Word' rarely rises above the status of conventional thriller. If you're not a fan of Douglas, don't go, because the film's full of his 'I-am-speaking-slowly-because-I-am-getting-very-angry' warnings and tight trouser grimaces. Sadly, it could have been so much more, the premise was intriguing, the grimy hospital was a great setting and the sub-plot of Douglas' bed ridden wife (Janssen) being watched by Bean's gang offered some paranoia dynamics.

But it's almost as if Fleder didn't want to credit his audience with too much brain power: Janssen is underused, there's not enough mind tennis between Douglas and Murphy and when he busts her out of the hospital, the plot descends into chases, standoffs and a back-from-the-dead finale. To his credit, Fleder manages to turn up the tension in a few places, but if he really wanted to nail you to the seat, why not have Janssen as the single parent psychologist locked in a room and a race against time and write Douglas out all together? Then again, Michael Douglas can open a film to Stateside, Famke Janssen (sniff) can't.

Harry Guerin