Across the cineplex from David Mamet's better mousetrap Spartan (admittedly built from old parts), writer-director David Koepp has the ignominious chore of reassembling Stephen King's dusty old contraption strictly by the blueprint on file. Secret Window, based on King's novella "Secret Window, Secret Garden," sews the body parts of Misery, The Shining, The Dark Half, and other King classics to a big twist now painfully familiar to even the most casual moviegoer. Within the first ten minutes of Secret Window, I knew where we were going, which left only Koepp's occasional clever flourish and Johnny Depp's rakish performance to admire.
Now that Depp is Hollywood's "It Boy" again (on the heels of his Oscar-nominated performance in monster hit Pirates of the Caribbean), the fortuitously timed Secret Window will draw lemmings to its high seaside cliff. But don't come on in: the water's not fine. Depp plays King surrogate, Mort Rainey, a slovenly mystery writer moping his way through the wake of an ugly breakup and staving off an inevitable divorce (yes, yes, he won't sign the papers). Maria Bello (The Cooler) plays Rainey's ex and Timothy Hutton (hey, The Dark Half!) stands in as her new beau. As Mort flops on the couch of his remote cabin to avoid writing his latest roman à clef, a knock comes at the door. It's John Turturro as spurned writer John Shooter, Southern-drawling "You stole my story" and promising hell to pay. Rainey insists he hasn't stolen Shooter's story, but Shooter wants proof or restitution.
Depp's eccentric performance is the whole movie (even Philip Glass's score hits perfunctory creepy thriller notes); Depp's hot and cold running body language and facial tics make up a parody of authorial narcissism, complete with ratty bathrobe, unflagging procrastination, and indulgent substance abuse (here, cigarettes and Mountain Dew). Turturro's purposefully overcooked performance, escaped from a Coen Brothers comedy, can't compare to Depp's carefully regulated deadpan, which fairly exudes, "I'm so much better than this movie...and you know you want it."