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Identity (2003)
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Review Date: April 17, 2003
Director: James Mangold
Writer: Michael Cooney
Producers: Cathy Konrad
Actors:
John Cusack as Ed
Ray Liotta as Rhodes
Amanda Peet as Paris
Plot:
A group of strangers stranded at a deserted fleabag motel during a huge rainstorm must work together in order to figure out why so many of them are meeting their gruesome deaths as the night progresses. Unclear about their increasingly bizarre circumstances, the gang begin to point fingers and wonder what's what. We watch, point fingers and wonder ourselves.
Critique:
A very cool movie with intense atmosphere, a fascinating mystery, plenty of diverse and engaging characters, creepilicious style, a couple of "what the-" moments, twists and an ending that personally...took me for a loop. This film is yet another entry into the "mind-fuck" category of movies that we've been getting (and enjoying) over the past few years, in which you're placed in a "basic" situation to start things off, but ultimately taken through a mind-ride that includes intrigue, whooziness and questions galore, as you try to figure out what is what, when is when, who is who and where is where. Along the way, this story brings pieces of that puzzle into the mix and as per any great thriller, provides for chills, murder, mayhem, edge-of-your-seat moments and even a couple of tension breakers. But at the end of the day, IDENTITY succeeds on account of its two main ingredients: set-up and characters. Once you fully involve yourself into this rainy, secluded dilemma in which all of these seemingly unrelated folks find themselves on this one particular evening, you will stick by them all night long, even as the story shifts into darkness, revelations and ultimately something very creepy and cool. As per usual, I will refrain from giving anything specific away, but suffice it to say that the ending might not "work" for everyone as it did for me. It's a very unique perspective and some people might not appreciate it. I personally loved it and even though I put together some very basic clues along the way, I was happy to be fooled into the bigger picture by the end. But before I make it sound like this film is all about the ending (it's no SIXTH SENSE in that sense), allow me to clarify, and stress, that I enjoyed this movie the whole way through anyway and was simply overjoyed by the path chosen for its finale to boot (although something happens immediately thereafter which I'm still not 100% sure about, but I'm also pretty sure that I liked too). Vague enough for you?

It's also to note that this is obviously one of those movies that will most certainly be enjoyed on another level when watched again (and I will...watch it again!). Now let's talk actors! This film is packed with thespians, chief among them being the always-reliable John Cusack, playing the righteous dude with the good head on his shoulders to a tee...once again. Ray Liotta also breaks solid wind as the badass cop, while Amanda Peet plays the slut to perfection...once again (thanks babe!) Granted, none of the three leads are stretching in terms of character work from their past, but they all clicked together here and considering the personality of this film overall...I believe the characters' definitions was part of its point. Plenty of others also stood out including Pruitt Taylor Vince playing an excellent nutball (loved the eye thing), an unrecognizable big-titted Rebecca DeMornay playing a failed actress (natch!), Clea Duvall screaming a lot, John C. McGinley actually not playing the asshole for once, as well as a very funny turn by John Hawkes as the motel owner (his presence was appreciated). Jake Busey was the only one who didn't really "fit" in this film. It's also to note that IDENTITY might very well be considered a "horror film" since it contains a number of gruesome deaths as well as plenty of blood and subtle scares. In fact, one particular demise featuring a baseball bat and a head is definitely for the books. Not for zee squeamish. But the biggest props go out to the man behind this extravaganza, director James Mangold, who obviously knows a thing or two about style, about build-up, about directing and about great movies (please tell me that you were coerced to do KATE & LEOPOLD so that you could do this movie afterwards?). Great show, my good man!

In the end, if you dig on mysteries, if you enjoyed a certain FRAILTY in 2002, if you don't mind thinking "outside of the box" and appreciate a number of characters interacting in an enclosed area with lots of rain pouring down all around them as they each get swatted down by something or another...stick your shish into this kebab and praise Sony/Columbia for coming out with one of the first fun-time thrillers of the year. Great eats!
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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