Thrillers often toe the line between suspense and comedy, with the latter usually the fault of a script that does not work or bad acting. Secret Window manages to hold on gamely for a while, but ultimately turns into a parody. This is not the fault of star Johnny Depp, riding high after an Oscar nomination for Pirates of the Caribbean, but because of the script by David Koepp (Spider-Man, Panic Room), adapted from the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King. Adaptations of King's work tend to be all over the place, from extremely well down to downright horrible. Secret Window leans toward the latter. This is Koepp's first outing as a director, and as Panic Room showed, he could ratchet up the intensity. However, he isn't able to maintain a level of suspense necessary, and devolves the story into a loony, goofy finale.
Depp (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) is such a good actor because he picks what he wants to do. He refuses to conform any preconceived notions of what a leading man should do, or how he should further his career. Depp frequently picks difficult roles that force him to stretch his abilities. He also seems to infuse each of his roles with a little something extra; something usually a bit odd. Here, he gives author Mort Rainey little obsessive-compulsive tics. Rainey looks like the type of author uncomfortable around people. He lives alone in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, where he can work on his novel. He seems to enjoy the solitude and freedom the isolation gives him. All this changes when a homicidal country bumpkin calling himself "Shooter" (John Turturro, Anger Management, Mr. Deeds) shows up on Rainey's doorstep and accuses him of stealing his story.
Secret Window quickly turns into a running battle between Shooter and Rainey. Shooter wants Rainey to admit he stole the story, and the more Rainey refuses, the more dangerous Shooter becomes. Shooter even begins to involve Rainey's ex-wife Amy (Maria Bello, The Cooler, Auto Focus) and her current beau (Timothy Hutton, Sunshine State, Deterrence) into their little dispute. Shooter always seems to come out of nowhere. He can always find Rainey, and the experience always rattles him. Rainey has proof that he published his story Secret Window before Shooter supposedly wrote his, but this doesn't deter Shooter from coming on strong.
While Depp's performance again borders on quirky, Turturro's is a little too hokey to be scary. There are moments where he looks intimidating, but his exaggerated Southern hick spiel wears thin pretty quickly. Still, the threat of bodily harm works well until it becomes pretty obvious how everything will turn out. Koepp is not that great at hiding his big 'secret,' so when everyone watching knows what it is, it becomes hard to be scared. The story also dangles many ways out of trouble for Rainey, but it becomes increasingly frustrating as Rainey doesn't take them. As always, Depp is amusing to watch, but the same cannot be said about Secret Window.
|Haro Rates It: Not That Good.|
|1 hour, 46 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, sexual content, and language.|
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