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The spring movie season
finally has come up with some suspenseful, escapist fun: Identity. A clever
combination of opposing sensibilities Agatha Christie (Ten
Little Indians) and Friday
the 13th Identity is the kind of B-movie that Hollywood
cant make enough of these days, and its a darned shame.
There are only a few quibbles with this scary, and gory, story about 10
"guests" who get stranded in a creepy motel on a dark and very stormy night in
the middle of nowhere. Within minutes of their arrival, very violent, very deadly, things
start happening. And they dont stop. Trying his utmost to keep the calm amid the
countdown of deaths is Ed (John Cusack), limousine driver for a fading celebrity (Rebecca
DeMornay). Ed takes charge and jumps into seemingly uncharacteristic action after a bad
accident on the road involving a couple and their young son.
The other doomed folks who wind up at the motel are a tough cop (Ray
Liotta) whos transporting a crazed-looking criminal (Jake Busey); a good-hearted
prostitute trying to start a new life (Amanda Peet); and some squabbling young newlyweds
(Clea DuVall and Will Lee Scott). To top things off, motel proprietor Larry (John Hawkes),
is acting strangely, but no one seems to know why.
Director James Mangold (Cop
& Leopold) moves things at a speedy, but not breakneck, pace, accentuating
every twist in Michael Cooneys engaging script. In playfully paying homage to
thrillers (both good and bad) of days gone by -- and adding one big surprise -- the
filmmakers have created something familiar, yet fresh. Striking a pleasing balance between
plot machinations and characterization, Identity represents the rare case of a
film that remains enjoyable despite the fact that the characters motivations
ultimately arent of prime importance.
These people are pawns in a game, and its plain old fun to watch
them go down. Movie fanatics, however, and sticklers for detail may be clued into the
ending by paying specific attention to, simply, the films title. Others who
try to figure out what the opening sequence (about a psychiatrist and his patient, a Death
Row killer whose immediately pending execution is being reconsidered) has to do with the
terrifying action at the seedy hotel also may figure out the films big secret.
Still, its always fun to see the appealing Cusack (Max, Being John Malkovich), whos
delightfully more serious and less cutesy here than hes been in some of his earlier
roles, and Liotta (Blow, A Rumor of Angels), who
plays to type as the hot-headed enforcer. While Identity DVDs wont be
replacing anything on the Hitchcock shelf at the video store in the near future, the movie
is certainly an undeniable diversion and a decent way to spend a couple of bloody fun
- Leslie Katz