There are many things wrong with SECRET WINDOW, the latest in a long line of failed adaptations of a Stephen King opus. Top of the list would be how ridiculously easy it is to figure out the twist that I think was supposed to leave us gasping. While not an insurmountable obstacle, it is a tough one, particularly when the whole point of the story is that gasp that never comes.
Our story is one of love gone wrong and despair made manifest. Well, thats overstating the case a bit. The love was a faithless wife who, as our film begins, is surprised during a tryst with her lover (Timothy Hutton) in a cheap motel by her husband (Johnny Depp). Six months later, the marriage is over and said husband, mystery writer Morton Rainey, is holed up in his rustic cabin, gorging on Mountain Dew, Doritos, and surreptitious cigarettes. This has reduced him to a woozy schlub napping away the time between bouts of writers block and choking on that wedge of bitterness thats stuck in his craw. Into this self-imposed purgatory appears the hick from Hell, Shooter (John Turturro), who pounds on Raineys door and accuses him of stealing his story, the SECRET WINDOW of the title. Shooter, who favors the Amish in his sartorial choices, doesnt seem the most likely of authors, between the Mississippi-accented colloquialisms and lack of imagination in coming directly to Rainey instead of his lawyers or maybe a tabloid or two. Then again, maybe hes just a crazed fan, not the first of Raineys career and a favorite King theme. Suffice to say that bad things begin to happen and Rainey finds himself helpless in the face of the indifference of the local sheriff. Even calling in some sophisticated New York muscle (Charles S. Dutton) makes no difference, as Shooter appears at will and refuses to be intimidated.
The script does make a half-hearted effort to throw some red herrings at us, and if they werent so obviously red and fish-like, they might have helped. Instead, we are left with such tried-and-true triteness as killing Raineys dog in the second reel and menacing his all but ex-wife. If there was a spark of originality to be found here, it went AWOL from boredom and, perhaps, a little embarrassment. Then there are the holes, too numerous to mention and certainly not worth the trouble to list. It is enough to mention the most egregious. That would be the one where Rainey can prove he wrote the story before Shooter did, all he has to do is produce the magazine that it appeared in two years before Shooter claimed to have penned the tale. Instead of doing an online search, or ordering up a back issue, or, heavens forefend, calling the magazine in question for confirmation, there is a convoluted paper chase that creates irritation, not suspense. Or even interest at that point.
Depp, on the other hand, is always interesting. He plays an angry sort of eccentricity here, swatting at invisible flies and biting at the air with a nervous tick. Its as though hes realized too late that the material is lame and hes decided to give two performances simultaneously, the part as written and a sometimes not-so-subtle parody of the action, using readings and body language that comment on it with a wry snarkiness that is, in the end, the only thing worth watching. Turturro, on the other hand, seems to have taken his cue for playing an evil hick from DELIVERANCE, and I dont mean that in a good way.
Not even die-hard Depp fans, and I count myself among them, should subject themselves to SECRET WINDOW. While its heartening to see what our guy Johnny can do when even the script is against him, its sad to see those considerable talents wasted on this dreck.