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Coen van Vrijberghe de Coningh,
Stefan de Walle
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American pharmaceutical executive Walter Richmond takes a business trip to Amsterdam, accompanied by his wife Cathryn and their 10-year-old daughter Melissa, who has been mute ever since an accident some time ago. To communicate, Melissa uses a small magic marker board that she wears around her neck. Melissa makes a trip to the ladies' room at the hotel De L'Europe and gets separated from her parents. Melissa wanders out of the hotel and onto the street, where she witnesses the murder of Simon Van Der Molen, the attorney representing Walter's Dutch client. Unfortunately, Melissa is spotted by the killers, who are hit man Bruno Decker and his employer Rudolph Hartman, who turns out to be Walter's client. Hartman had Van Der Molen killed to prevent Van Der Molen from revealing the side effects of Hartman's new medication, which he's marketing to Walter's firm. If Van Der Molen would have told Walter about the side effects, Walter would have declined the medication, and Hartman would ... Written by
Not the stinker it might've been, but it's ludicrously all over the place and despite everything that's going on; it doesn't leave you with a sense much has been achieved.
Do Not Disturb hugs a fine line between a gripping, taut and rather brilliant thriller which is built on a foundation of a series of suspenseful set pieces, and out and out farce built on daft escapism and a series of bizarre coincidences. It would be easy to enjoy Do Not Disturb for what it is; to let it wash over you in a manner that'll see you enjoy the crazy chases, conveniencies and scenes of action. But the film doesn't do enough, overall. Do Not Disturb is wild, uneven and seems to establish a number of rules and regulations purely so that it can break them ten minutes later. I didn't have a mute ten year old girl down as a professional hit-man foiler; likewise I didn't have a cold-blooded criminal down as a rejected Home Alone villain and I didn't have William Hurt's character down as an all action, James Bond inspired superhero.
The film, bizarrely and seemingly unnecessarily retitled 'Silent Witness' for American audiences, is alive with action and off-the-wall content running parallel to amateurish and contrived acts of silliness. The Silent Witness of the across-the-pond title is a young, mute daughter of Jennifer Tilly's Cathryn Richmond and William Hurt's Walter Richmond. Her name is Melissa. The Richmond's are an American family in Amsterdam specifically there for a rendez-vous Walter is about to have with some business higher-up linked to lawyers and medicine firms whatever, it's not important. From there, poor Melissa is separated from her parents and witnesses a cold blooded, back alley murder of a man that was ordered by a certain Rudolph Hartman (Chiklis); a man linked to Melissa's father's business trip. From here, a somewhat ludicrous chase ensures between the hit-man and Melissa; the Richmond's desperate search for their daughter and the misadventures the kid gets up to with a homeless, boat dwelling individual.
Yes, the film is just about as mad as it sounds. Dutch film-maker Dick Maas paints a somewhat typical portrait of his native nation's supposed cesspit, that-is Amsterdam. He goes so far to get across a sense of familiarity that he even works in a scene set in brothel that typically has to encompass leather-clad subservients and the women that dominate them one of whom even gets to fire off a few rounds from a pistol. The film might also be read into as a meek exploration of American people based, and severely struggling, within the continent of Europe as the surroundings and elements work against them. If you buy into Eli Roth's somewhat tame theory that he peppers his Hostel films with that is linked to how Americans have a real lack of respect to their surroundings when they travel abroad, you might be tempted to see Do Not Disturb as a cautionary tale to do with keeping together as one unit - and that despite your rich surroundings in whatever hotel you're based; do not underestimate what lurks around the next corner.
This is, of course, ignoring the fact everyone in Do Not Disturb is of American acting talent descent: the locals, the police and even Dennis Leary's aforementioned tramp character Simon the friendliest damn tramp you'll probably ever stumble across. The film spills out onto the streets and begins to resemble a more typical, cause and effect driven thriller that encompasses good vs. evil and that general sensation of chase as one party either outruns or outsmarts a chasing party through clever and rather enjoyable little tussles at random locations. But because the director has a bit of a postcard view of his setting, we get all the usual locations that encompass the already mentioned brothel; an escape down a canal; the using of those arch bridges as vantage points, and so on.
I think there's content in Do Not Disturb worth tuning in for, but not enough good content to worth recommending it. Director Maas shows he has an eye for suspense set pieces and displays a good awareness of characters in relation to objects and spaces within the location, it's just that there are problems deeply rooted in both the plausibility of his screenplay and the execution of the action sequences. Take the scene, for example; in which the parents, somewhat stupidly, leave Melissa alone in their hotel room after she's been to Hell and back and attend a meeting downstairs. There is enough ammunition in the sequence that sees the hit-man from earlier attain information on Melissa's whereabouts; go to the wrong room; have Melissa's mother make her way up there unaware of the hit-man's presence and then round everything off in the actual suite. One wonders what our old friend Gene Siskel might've thought of the film and its consistent use of the young girl character in a number of harsh predicaments.
I also think some of the the early scenes are rather effective and tap into a very primal fear parents will be able to relate to; that sensation that their child is missing and they're in an area they're not remotely familiar with. But the film is an inglorious failure; it tries to blend too many elements of escapism and realism with comedy and very black material. There's stuff to admire as the suspense attempts to wash over you, and the little girl in the lead role is an easy character to sympathise with and therefore root for; but the film is too much one-part Home Alone, one-part drab and downbeat chase thriller. I'm not familiar with the rest of Maas' work and probably wont track any of it down, but if I happen to stumble across some of it, I have a feeling I might just curiously tune in.
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