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Dead Silence Reviews

A standard hostage-crisis drama, DEAD SILENCE originally premiered on HBO prior to its release on home video. After stealing $2 million dollars from a bank, three thieves--Ted (Kim Coates), Sonny (James Villemaire), and Shephard (Gary Basaraba)--take a busload of deaf students and their teacher hostage inside an abandoned slaughterhouse. John Potter (James Garner), a federal agent whose reputation has been blighted by a hostage situation that went awry, takes a risk and leaves Sonny (who has pedophile tendencies) to watch the children. Potter's handling of the crisis is interfered with by Assistant DA Roland Marks (Charles Martin Smith). On the bus, the children's teacher, Melanie (Marlee Matlin), who is also deaf, reveals via sign language that she is attempting to escape down a back stairwell that leads to a river. After stopping Sonny from raping one female student, Melanie leads the rest to safety before she and the girl are recaptured. Angry over the escape of the students, Ted blames Sonny and fatally shoots him. Noted hostage negotiator Sharon Foster (Lolita Davidovich) arrives to coax Ted and Shephard to give up. Hours later, the duo relent. Foster, riding in the police van with two cops, shoots them and frees Ted and Shepard, revealing in the process that she is actually Ted's girlfriend and the killer of the real Sharon Foster, whose body is found by Potter. With Melanie safely installed in his car, Potter races back to the slaughterhouse, the place the thieves had hidden the missing money. In the ensuing confrontation, Potter is wounded and Marks (who was in on the scam), the fake Foster, and a state trooper are all killed. Melanie ignites the gas-covered floor of the slaughterhouse; in the confusion that follows, Potter fatallly shoots Ted. Former "Rockford Files" star Garner is the lone reason to check out this essentially bland small-screen effort from former screenwriter-turned-director Dan Petrie Jr. (TOY SOLDIERS, IN THE ARMY NOW). After the taut opening--in which the crooks grab the bus, threaten the children, and shoot the driver--Petrie lets the tension subside, and the film becomes mired in predictable situations, with the only suspenseful incident being Sonny's atttempted rape of a student. Even Melanie's eventual escape with her students is curiously free of obstructions--not one of the deaf children does anything to lead the viewer to believe they'll be caught by Ted and company. Donald Stewart's by-the-numbers script moves slowly but surely from plot-point to plot-point, right up to the predictable revelation about Davidovich's character. From a technical standpoint, the film is well-crafted, but nondescript. The stunts and special effects are decent, but being a low-budget effort, the film mostly relies on its lead performers to carry the day: Coates and Davidovich try, but fail, to rise above the mediocrity of the material. (Profanity, violence.)