Secret Window (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/04/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Trashy, but enjoyable thriller redeemed by a performance from Johnny Depp that is never less than watchable.

The words “Based on a novella by Stephen King” probably don’t inspire as much excitement as once they did, and with good reason: for every Misery, there’s a Dreamcatcher, a Hearts in Atlantis and a Tommyknockers.

Indeed, a quick glance at his imdb.com listing reveals that rather than make films of his more recent work, film-makers are happier either remaking his better-known books for TV (The Dead Zone, Carrie) or churning out endless sequels to his previous shockers (Sometimes They Come Back…For More or Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, anyone?) However, though Secret Window is certainly familiar and derivative, it isn’t afraid to have a little fun at its own expense either, and as such, it’s an enjoyably trashy thriller.

Thriller Writer Recovers From Painful Divorce

Johnny Depp plays Mort Rainey, a – surprise! - thriller writer recovering from a painful divorce from ex-wife Maria Bello. He’s holed himself up in a lakeside cabin intending to finish his latest novel, but he’s suffering from severe writer’s block and doesn’t seem to be able to manage much more than walking the dog and sleeping on his sofa every day. To make matters worse, a mysterious, sinister stranger named Mr Shooter (John Turturro) shows up on Rainey’s doorstep, accusing him of plagiarising his story and demanding satisfaction…

Depp is excellent, as always – his performance is the best thing about the film and he’s never less than watchable, though the blonde hair takes a little getting used to. Turturro is also well-cast and suitably menacing and intense. There’s also good support from the seemingly ubiquitous Charles S. Dutton, as well as Maria Bello and, in another nice bit of referential casting, Timothy Hutton (who was the lead in The Dark Half).

Not Hard To See Where Story Going

To be fair, it isn’t too hard to work out where the story is going, especially if you’ve ever seen this sort of film before. However, writer-director David Koepp rewards both smart-aleck plot-guessers and second-time viewers alike by cramming the film full of clues and signposts – pay close attention to the objects in the film, as well as the dialogue. There are also other nice touches, such as having Depp reading a book by Hunter S. Thompson.

Unfortunately, the film isn’t without its fair share of rubbish bits – there’s an embarrassing ‘Alcohol is bad, mmm-kay?’-type moment and it suffers from Multiple Ending Syndrome, as the (second) ending is both unsatisfying and clearly tacked-on.

That said, Depp’s enjoyable performance ensures that the film is never less than watchable, even during its more laughable moments. It’s never exactly what you’d call scary, though.

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Content updated: 23/07/2014 10:41

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