A/V Room









The Secret Window (15)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary; 4 deleted scenes; 'From Book to Film' featurette; 'A Look Through It' featurette; 'Secrets Revealed' featurette; Storyboards; Theatrical trailer.

JOHNNY Depp has performed some box office miracles of late, but not even he can save The Secret Window from becoming the disappointment that it winds up.

Having turned Pirates of the Caribbean into the surprise runaway hit of last year’s blockbuster season, and helping to enliven Robert Rodriguez’s over-bloated Once Upon A Time in Mexico, he now lends his charisma to a taut psychological thriller, based upon a Stephen King novella.

Yet as watchable as the star remains throughout, he is ill-served by the material, which ruthlessly squanders its potential with one of the unsatisfactory endings in ages.

Depp stars as emotionally unstable writer, Mort Rainey, whose reclusive existence, in a remote New England log cabin, is put to an end by the arrival of John Turturro’s bizarre stranger, John Shooter, who accuses him of plagiarism and demands that he put things right, or face the dire consequences.

And so begins a battle of wits between the two, which forces Depp to confront the emotional fallout from his recently failed marriage (to Maria Bello), and which finds Turturro resorting to traditional stalker mode, complete with the ability to terrorise the obligatory family pet.

If Rainey can restore Shooter’s name to the story and include the original ending, then all will be forgiven, but Depp’s reluctance to accept responsibility places his life, and those around him, in danger.

Written and directed by David Koepp (whose script-writing resume includes the likes of Panic Room, Spider-Man and Mission: Impossible), The Secret Window sets itself up as an old-fashioned pot-boiler in the Hitchcock tradition, and includes the odd creepy moment, but is ultimately let down by the flimsy nature of its own premise.

Depp does his best to mask the movie’s shortcomings, managing to bring his trademark quirkiness to the role of the troubled writer and providing a compelling screen presence, but when the twist is so obvious and the ending so banal, not even he can prevent viewers from lapsing into an overwhelming sense of resentment at being so blatantly cheated.

Koepp may be an expert in building tension and creating a foreboding sense of dread and paranoia, and his film looks great throughout, but he cannot enliven the source material, and winds up heading towards a dead end.

As a consequence, he ends up squandering the talents of a good cast, despite building a good rapport between the likes of Depp, Turturro and Charles S Dutton, who crops up as a private investigator.

That the film opened at the top of the US box office, despite lukewarm reviews, when it opened earlier this year, is probably down to Depp’s new-found mainstream popularity, off the back of his winning 2003, but this marks a rare mis-step in an otherwise entertaining repertoire.

It is, in the final analysis, a secret window that’s not worth opening.

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