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Secret Window (2004)
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Review Date: March 10, 2004
Director: David Koepp
Writer: David Koepp
Producers: Gavin Polone
Actors:
Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey
John Turturro as John Shooter
Maria Bello as Amy
Plot:
A recently separated writer finds himself in a bind when a weird guy who he's never met, drives up to his isolated cabin, and accuses him of plagiarizing his work. The writer blows the guy off as a nut, but can't get rid of him very easily, and slowly but surely, falls deeper into a hole. Then...people start dying. Whodunnit? Not sure, but even with bedhead...Depp looks supreme.
Critique:
A good movie with a "been there, done that" ending that takes away from its well-crafted first two-thirds, which ooze mystery, darkness and Depp. What sucks most is that a conclusion of this sort might have worked, or even been considered somewhat original about 5 years ago, but nowadays, any real movie fan will see it coming miles away, and consequently, not feel entirely fulfilled. That said, I still appreciated the film's gloomy conclusion, which is rare in Hollywood nowadays, as well as its explanation, which despite having been predicted by the guy in the seat next to me about halfway through (nice one, Arrow), still managed to make sense of most of the unanswered questions from earlier, and in my opinion, complete the generally intriguing storyline. I just wish they had chosen something a lot more original. Ending aside, most of the film is excellently paced, features a nifty, creepy score, plenty of surprising touches of humor (most of which come from the great Depp-meister, once again), as well as a couple of interesting subplots, the best of which features Depp's character having to deal with his wife, her new better-half and their inevitable divorce (she cheated on him...natch) I didn't particularly like Turturro's character or his characterization of the part, which I found to be a little too annoying and over-the-top. I understand that certain people do speak that way and that he was, obviously, supposed to annoy me, but I just didn't feel like he fit into the movie as well as everything else. The film's directing, camera angles, moments of suspense worked great though, as well as its out-of-the-way small town location, which exuded friendliness, but not without a deeper sense of unease. The movie actually reminded me of MISERY and THE NINTH GATE, but just not as good.

Of course, much like many of my previous reviews of Johnny Depp movies, I will once again, re-iterate the actor's unique charm and presence, and concede that the same movie created sans Depp, would likely not have energized me as much as this one did. The man isn't just great-looking, even when he attempts to look gruff and disheveled, but even more importantly, a consummate professional who carves an original niche into each of his characters, with this one, as memorable as many of his others. Luckily for us (or unluckily for anyone who can't stand the man), Depp is present in almost every single frame of this movie, including a majority of scenes in which he's alone with the camera. Not many actors would be able to pull off that sort of extreme emphasis (maybe not even Depp for some people, as a few did walk out of my screening), but Depp has fun with the role and takes you along for a dark, suspenseful ride. Many of the secondary characters also presented some decent showings (including Maria Bello and Timothy Hutton), but to be honest, didn't really have all that much to do. The focus is on Depp's writer character, his problems with a creepy Southern dude and his relationship issues. I enjoyed most of this movie, primarily because of Depp's performance, the touches of humor and Koepp's taut directing, but at the end of the day, didn't feel complete when the film revealed itself entirely. Great final shot though!
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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