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Horror and Depp-ravity in the woods

first_imgJohnny Depp really should get himself a new agent. The man has worldwide adulation from female fans, and a talent as reliable as any Hollywood heavyweight. He’s probably one of the most bankable actors at work today. But judging from his track record, he chooses his scripts either blindfold or just blind drunk. For every classic he’s made ( Platoon, Donnie Brasco etc), there’s a clanger to match ( A Nightmare on Elm Street 6, enough said). These days, though, he seems to be resigned to carrying films singlehandedly. Pirates of the Caribbean would have been instantly forgettable without his swaggering brilliance as Captain Jack Sparrow. Hell, even the Academy had to swallow their usual stuffiness and hand him a Best Actor nomination for what was, basically, a pantomime performance. This week’s Secret Windowfinds him once again fighting a valiant battle against a mediocre script. A Stephen King adaptation, it gives him a chance to playfully undermine his sex-symbol status as a grubby, dishevelled novelist (Mort Rainey), holed-up alone in a log cabin following a split from his wife. Shuffling around in a mangy dressing gown, surviving on Doritos and cigarettes, Mort battles writer’s block in a lovesick stupour. Life isn’t exactly made any easier by the appearance of a wacko redneck (John Turturro), angrily claiming that Mort plagiarised a story of his. Rather than letting their lawyers settle it, he wants do things the good old-fashioned psycho way involving vendettas and imaginative intimidation. Of course, this being a psycho movie, Johnny stubbornly remains in his creepy cabin in the woods, even while all those other dispensable peripheral characters receive screwdrivers in their heads with quick succession. As terrifying as all this may sound, the film actually works much better as a light comedy than a thriller, thanks to Depp’s bumbling amiability as Mort and some beautifully deadpan one-liners. But as welcome as this light relief may be, it only succeeds in making the film strangely schizophrenic in tone; an uneasy marriage of humour and horror. Mind you, all this would still be forgivable if the finale didn’t feature a twist so ludicrous it makes The Sixth Senseseem one-dimensional. It’s one of those ones that doesn’t stagger you with its ingeniousness but just leaves you feeling cheated when the assumptions you’ve built up and interest you’ve invested in characters are left completely redundant. The unintentional irony of Mort’s remark, that “the only thing that matters is the ending. It’s the most important part of the story”, only adds salt to the audience’s wounds. You’re left wishing that Johnny had heeded his own warning. And fired his agent while he was at it.ARCHIVE: 1st week TT 2004last_img

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