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2004, dir. David Koepp
100 min. Rated R.
Starring: Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton.

Review by Brodie James

If you've ever seen a film that has been based off of a short story or novel penned by the prolific horror author, Stephen King, then you know exactly where this film review of his latest attempt at a cinematic masterpiece, SECRET WINDOW, is going to go. Of course, rather than just give away my whole opinion of the film in the first paragraph (which would defeat the whole purpose of writing a review in the first place) allow me to drag this out a bit by digging into the film in a failing attempt to find some good.

Johnny Depp stars as Morton Rainey, a slightly Bohemian looking author of horror/mystery stories who, just six months ago, discovered his wife, Amy (Maria Bello) with whom he'd been married ten years, had been cheating on him with another man named Ted (Timothy Hutton). Those events have since sent is life into a tailspin of procrastination and loneliness. Currently struggling to write his next story (based on the events of six months ago) he finds himself more inspired to napping than writing.

Depp's performance in this film is very good. While it's neither his best nor most memorable, watching him play the eccentric yet subdued writer is a treat. I don't know if I'm okay with the weird highlights meshing with his naturally dark brown hair, but then that's just one of the many things I found to be wrong about this picture.

Morton (affectionately referred to as Mort by his friends and soon to be ex) is yanked out of his Mountain Dew and Dorito charged rut when he is awakened by a man banging away at his door. It is here that we meet Mr. John Shooter (John Turturro), wearing a suit that resembles the one that old Preacher wore in POLTERGEIST, and speaking with one of the worst southern accents I've ever had the displeasure of hearing.

Mr. Shooter confronts Morty with an accusation of plagiarism. After Morty denies the charge and slams the door, Shooter leaves, but not before dropping off a copy of his manuscript. Mort promptly tosses it in the trash and goes back to sleep. It isn't until the next day that Mort is confronted with the manuscript again, thanks to a thoughtful cleaning lady, and decides to give it a once over. Upon reading, he notices that Shooter's story emulates one of his own almost to the word.

From here, Mort is shoved into a realm of confusion. Knowing he didn't steal anybodies story, he runs to his literary agent and friend, Ken (Charles S. Dutton) who agrees to help his little buddy sort this whole mess out.

As the story drags on at a snail's pace, we learn that Mort had in fact stolen someone else's story years ago, and knowingly passed it off as his own, but that subplot is so under developed they would have been better leaving it out of the film all together.

The actors in SECRET WINDOW do an efficient job with the roles they've been given. Bello is believable as the distraught ex, who still has enough feelings for her former beau to worry. Dutton is just Dutton, lending some much needed power to a film that otherwise be flat. Hutton plays the perfect well meaning sleaze ball that is easy to dislike. His job is made rather easy, however, thanks to Depp who's charm wrangles support like a veteran Cowboy wrangles cattle. Okay, so that analogy was piss poor, but you get the idea.

The worst performance of the film is, much to my surprise, turned in by John Turturro. One of my personal favorites, it was shocking to see him do so little, even with the little he was given. Feeling out of place, and compounded by that awful accent, the only thought that kept echoing through my mind every time he appeared was, "Why, John? WHY!?"

Inching along through the first two acts, it is the third act that puts the final nail through the coffin for SECRET WINDOW. This typical King ending requires so much suspension of disbelief that if you were to actually attempt to buy into it, you could accidentally hit the off switch and drop to the popcorn and chewing gum caked floor of your theater, braindead. The only claim to fame this film will boast as life goes and more King stories are translated to film will be that with SECRET WINDOW, the bottom had finally be hit.

With okay acting, and a welcomed return to a major films for Timothy Hutton (whom I haven't seen on the big screen since Keitel's gangster flick CITY OF INDUSTRY--maybe he's been in more than that, I just haven't seen him) it isn't enough to overshadow the ending.

I'd rather sit through DREAMCATCHER again. Yeah, this film is that bad.

The work of Brodie James can also be found on his very own website, Living Corpse.


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