north americaeurope
  in brief
theatrical release


secret window
  david koepp
  maria bello, johnny depp, john turturro
the good: as usual, depp does a great job with his character. movie is nicely done, if not spectacular.
the bad: absolutely derivative, everything is predictable. fails to stand out in any way.
we say:
in depth

'Secret Window' is really a disappointment, and it's not that hard to see why. As far as Stephen King adaptations go, this seems one of the oddest choices. King's penned many a better short story/novella, and it shows: 'Secret Window' is nothing but a paint-by-numbers thriller, which manages to be many things, but never 'thrilling'.

The best part of this movie is Johnny Depp, who manages to make the most out of a pretty flat character. Depp's got his usual charm, mumbling amusing one-liners and turning out a pretty nice character piece. He's really the only distinguishing feature in a movie that best performs as an exercise in mediocrity.

Depp plays reclusive author Mort Rainey (gee, Stephen King's writing about an author? Kinky!) who's been having a bit of a bad time recently. Not only is his most recent novel dead in the water, a few months ago he found out his wife of ten years was cheating on him. After a bit of an incident, he's forced to deal with the details of a divorce, as well as his ex-wife's smug boyfriend. Not to worry though, things soon get pretty worse. A mysterious stranger with a southern accent soon shows up, accusing Rainey of plagiarism.

Rainey is of course vehement in his denials, as he wrote the story years before the stranger, and actually published it in a magazine. Until said magazine makes an appearance, the stranger, capably played by Turturro, starts to make Rainey's sorry life a hell of a lot worse. Soon the situation begins to escalate, and Rainey becomes convinced his visitor isn't quite sane.

The movie gets off to a promising start, as there's a good sense of growing unease laced throughout the first act, and a general feel of tension in the background. This progresses nicely for the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the film.

From about there on in, the movie loses any sense of creativity/originality you might have been hoping for. The movie plays like every other thriller you've seen, stealing elements from all of them. To make things worse, it doesn't manage to improve on any of these cliches, and they're all very obvious far in advance. If you can't see the plot twist (I use the term loosely) far in advance, then you're probably sleeping. Don't bother getting up until the end. The end tries to ratchet up the intensity by a few notches, and it's to be commended for not pulling any punches - as you might expect in a mainstream movie of this type. Still, it's not enough to salvage the movie as a whole. The closing scenes are pretty hokey, and any good material in the final act is a case of too little, too late.

In general, it's well put together, the dialogue and plot development are done nicely - if by the book. The acting's never horrible, and the movie manages to look pretty good throughout. There's nothing overtly bad about 'Secret Window', but it's sheer predictability drags it down pretty quickly.

Screenwriter/Director David Koepp, the man who wrote screenplays for excellent movies such as 'Panic Room' and 'Mission: Impossible', can't seem to find his stride here. His direction is adequate, if uninspiried, and the same can be said about his screenplay. Then again, sticking to a written work, there's not much room to play with. It's a mystery as to why King's novella 'Secret Window, Secret Garden' was chosen as the source material. Perhaps it wasn't the worst choice, at least the movie-going public hasn't been subjected to another 'Dreamcatcher'. That's a good way to sum up 'Secret Window' - we should be thankful it wasn't worse.


reviewed by dragonsworn staff
  in closing
ironically, it's surprisingly predictable. pieces together parts of better movies. it kills time, depp is fun, but there's nothing special about it. rent it, but don't spend any more money than you have to.