Secret Window

dir. David Koepp

Opens Fri, March 12

Various Theaters

Johnny Depp is a quirk. He gets his start in a teen cop show, makes it big with some quirky flicks, and when his career starts to slide, slinks off to France. Nothing for a while, then BAM! Suddenly he's Oscar-nominated for playing an effeminate pirate and being hailed as one of the 50 Sexiest Men Alive. What's his deal? Who the hell knows? It's only certain that he's a quirk, and he uses that talent to make even the slightest of roles memorable. And once again, in The Secret Window, Depp manages to overcome a middling story thanks to a pant load of likable quirk.

Depp plays Mort Rainey, a depressed formerly successful novelist who's got a bad case of writer's block and a divorce waiting in the wings. While his unfaithful ex (Maria Bello) gets it on with her lunkheadish boyfriend (Timothy Hutton), Mort steams in a lakeside cabin in upper New York. His self-imposed privacy is broken, however, by a Mississippi hick called John Shooter (John Turturro) who claims Mort has plagiarized one of his stories. When the situation fails to be rectified to Shooter's satisfaction, Mort's acquaintances and pets begin winding up with screwdrivers crammed into their heads. And while most levelheaded people would run screaming back to the big city, Mort remains. Why? Because this quirky writer has secrets of his own.

Secret Window is a thriller--and a quirky one, much to its credit. It flows along in the same pulpy style of its original author (Stephen King), which means it also shares its author's penchant for unbelievable denouements. Yet somehow Depp has the ability to play even the most eye-rolling moments with a brand of believable grace. Even Turturro infuses his killer hillbilly with a real sense of menace that's reminiscent of Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear.

Credit also goes to director/screenwriter David Koepp (Panic Room), who guides the movie with an unrelenting steady hand. Add this to some unusual comic flourishes from Depp and Secret Window becomes a night of good popcorny entertainment. And sure, by the end you figure out it's all high-concept cheese--but at least it's made with the best ingredients.