A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
The first shot after the credits of "Secret Window" is an elaborate one. It begins with a view across a lake to a rustic cabin. Then the camera moves smoothly in to the shore, and across the grounds, and in through a window of the cabin, and it regards various rooms before closing in on a large mirror that reflects a man asleep on a couch.
The framing narrows until we no longer see the sides of the mirror, only the image. And then we realize we aren't looking at a reflection but are in fact now in the real room. Not possible logically, but this through-the-lookingglass shot, along with a wide-brimmed black hat and some Pall Mall cigarettes, are the only slight ripples in the smooth surface of the movie's realism.
The movie stars Johnny Depp in another of those performances where he brings a musing eccentricity to an otherwise straightforward role. He plays Mort Rainey, a best-selling novelist of crime stories; like the hero of "Misery," he reminds us that the original story is by Stephen King. The computer on his desk in the loft contains one paragraph of a new story, until he deletes it. He spends a lot of time sleeping, and has possibly been wearing the same ratty bathrobe for months. His hair seems to have been combed with an eggbeater, but of course with Johnny Depp you never know if that's the character or the actor.
A man appears at his door. He is tall and forbidding, speaks with a Mississippi accent, wears the wide-brimmed black hat, and says, "You stole my story." This is John Shooter (John Turturro), a writer who leaves behind a manuscript that is, indeed, almost word for word the same as Rainey's story "Secret Window." The plot deals with a man who has been betrayed by his wife, murders her, and buries her in her beloved garden where, after a time, she will be forgotten, "perhaps even by me." Rainey knows he did not steal the story, but Shooter is an angry and violent man, who stalks the author and causes bad things to happen: a screwdriver through the heart of his beloved dog, for example. Shooter says he wrote his story in 1997, and Rainey has his comeback: He wrote his in 1994, and thinks he has an old issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine to prove it.