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Movie Review: Identity

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Starring John Cusack and Ray Liotta, Identity is a film which opened to little of the commercial fanfare associated with a blockbuster movie. But this is a film that packs all of the suspense and entertainment value of The Sixth Sense into an original screenplay about a serial killer on the loose. Haunting in its presentation, yet far from a traditional horror film, Identity follows the exploits of ten strangers who become stranded at a Nevada hotel in the midst of a massive rainstorm. One by one, they are being killed off, but no one knows the true identity of the killer.

A number of seemingly unrelated people gather at a small roadside motel in a Nevada desert location. Strangers to each other, the people descend from all different types of professions and lifestyles – a limousine driver and his movie star client, a policeman (Ray Liotta) transporting a convict, two parents with their young son, a prostitute (Amanda Peet), a young couple, and the motel's manager (John Hawkes). All of them are trapped on the grounds of the motel due to a record rainstorm that's made the roads impassable. Beset by darkness, each of the motel guests resigns to his fate and settles down to ride out the storm. The guests even make an attempt to socialize with one another.

But when one motel guest turns up dead, suspicions are raised. When it's revealed that an escaped convict (Jake Busey) is on the loose, the guests become panicked. Ed (John Cusack) becomes de facto leader of the small group of strangers who begin to suspect each other when the convict is captured and the killings continue. Is the true killer among them? Or is someone else (or something else) on the motel grounds with them? Far away, in an undisclosed location, a psychiatrist is feverishly attempting to prove the innocence of a man accused of murder, and the answer lies right before him.

Although it's a decent film, Identity falls into the teenage horror film device of having each character wander off alone – despite the fact that people who wander off alone continually turn up dead. However, I'm usually willing to overlook such things if the rest of the film is decent because a movie's objective is to entertain, and Identity does that.

The darkness of the setting, coupled with intermittent thunder and the pattering of rain, create an all-encompassing sense of suspense bordering on fear. Rain muffles sound, so how can you hear if someone's sneaking up behind you? Identity is a unique and original film most movie lovers will enjoy. The plot device is employed with the utmost efficiency, keeping the audience guessing until the very end. Who is the real killer? You'll have to watch Identity to find out.

Presenting a knockout performance by John Cusack, Identity is one of the surprise films of 2003. The dialogue is fresh, not stiff, and the characters are well-rounded considering many of them do not live through most of the scenes. With a surprise ending reminiscent of smash hits The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects, Identity (although nowhere near as good as those films) is a film you won't want to miss. With its well-written storyline and crescendo of suspense, Identity is a film well worth seeing.

Britt's Rating: 7.8/10

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About Britt Gillette

  • Baronius

    Good review – and this is a tough movie to review. John C. McGinley from Scrubs was also one of the ten. I always get a kick out of him.

  • This movie is tight and mean and fun, and pays homage to 10 Little Indians with its setup.

    Cusack is great as the haunted cop, and Amanda Peet also delivers some great work (a nifty riff on the hooker with a heart of gold).

    What’s clever is that the premise allows for the cliched characters (without giving anything away, sorry if that is cryptic).

    I thought it suffered from trying waaay too hard to deliver that one last GOTCHA! ending.

    I was with it (no spoilers ahead) right up till the end, which sort of out-whammy’ed me. I felt it was forsaking the audience’s trust & zinged them one time too many.

  • Baronius

    I wasn’t offended by the ending, but I know what you mean. (I can’t imagine how to say this without saying too much, so bear with me.) Britt noted that the movie was released with less fanfare than you’d expect, given its cast. I’d bet that the studio executives never quite understood the movie. The movie’s few problems stemmed from it not fitting into any particular genre. That’s all I dare say.