Published Mar 01, 2004Studios hoping to capitalise on Johnny Depp's current hot status are banking on the release of Secret Window to exploit the attention the eccentric actor has received for his out-there performance in Pirates of the Caribbean. And while Depp gives a solid performance in this David Koepp thriller, it's an understated role in a mediocre movie that will likely send Depp back to the character-driven roles he's always preferred.
Depp is Mort Rainey, a successful writer who's divorcing his wife (played by Maria Bello) after discovering her affair with a mutual friend (Timothy Hutton). He's holed up in a woodsy log cabin where writers block has put him on the couch instead of in front of his word processor. But when a mysterious figure named John Shooter (John Turturro) arrives at his door and accuses him of plagiarising a long-forgotten story, Mort Rainey's world begins to unravel.
Director David Koepp (Stir of Echoes) penned his script from a Stephen King novella, and the story has all the earmarks of a King tale isolation, mystery and an interest in exploring the inner life of the writer. But where Koepp has proven himself an excellent writer (having penned Unforgiven, Panic Room, Spiderman and Mission: Impossible), he hasn't matched his successes as a director. Secret Window suffers from overworking its material, as Depp runs around trying to prove to a seeming maniac that his work is his own.
Johnny Depp's performance as Mort is what makes Secret Window watchable his innate sense of comic timing comes through in some subtle moments throughout the film, but as a thriller, it never gets out of the gate. The "mystery" it sets up who Turturro's John Shooter really is seems like a crutch to prompt the action, but as a central theme, it struggles to support the foundation of the story. More interesting is Mort's relationship with his ex-wife, but Koepp treats that relationship as one of a series of red herrings in the film. And while some of the previews have "teased" a surprise ending, this one comes with all the impact of a shrugged off "meh." Depp has a history of choosing mediocre starring roles (From Hell, The Ninth Gate, Blow) and this is another. (Columbia/Sony)