Directed by James Mangold.
Written by Michael Cooney.
Starring John Cusack, Ray Liotta and Alfred Molina.
Release Year: 2003
Review Date: 4/28/03
It’s your classic whodunit, and for a good
time with some solid scares and a tricky ending, “Identity” fits the
bill in a way that most movies aspire but never attain.
Ten random people end up at a motel
somewhere in Nevada since a storm seen only in “The Ten
Commandments” hits and everyone gets stranded. Everyone includes a
limo driver and his client, a call girl, a recently-married couple,
a family of three, the motel owner, a corrections cop and his
prisoner. During the course of the one night they are stuck at the
motel, someone is killing off the random ensemble one by one and it
is up to these strangers to figure out why. Meanwhile, a subplot
featuring a convicted killer and his lawyer’s attempts to stave off
his rapidly-approaching execution seem to tie into the main plot of
It is the subplot, featuring Alfred Molina
as a psychologist trying to decipher the mind of the killer, that
helps to keep you guessing as to who really is killing off the
strangers...and, it makes this otherwise simple film quite creative
in its attempt to shroud the mystery. In fact, more than any of
these mystery films that I can remember seeing over the last five
years, you should beat the person in your group with a baseball bat
that even tries to pull some “Oh yeah man, I knew it was ___” crap
on you. There is simply no way you’ll know who it is until the very
last frame of the film. And that is because writer Michael Cooney
comes up with a plot device that essentially makes it impossible for
you to know who it is...and, an assist provided by the film’s
marketing department that designed the trailer. I can’t really
explain this last point without giving part of the ending away, but
trust me--it had me fooled.
Director James Mangold (“Copland”) does an
incredible job to pace the film and to serve up the killings with a
dark, gloomy set--the motel--as the film’s spooky background. He
gets great performances out of his oddball collection of
actors--character actor John C. McGinley, Rebecca De Mornay, and
folks like John Cusack, Amanda Peet (you guessed it--she plays the
call girl AGAIN), and Ray Liotta all are solid in their parts as the
world around them crumbles. De Mornay in particular was great;
playing an actress that has fallen from the limelight must have
struck her as ironic when she read the part, and that she took it
speaks to her willingness to take part in a film featuring a script
that is this fresh. Even Jake Busey as the cop’s prisoner makes his
three or four scenes quite memorable.
“Identity” won’t win any awards come Oscar
time next year but as summer entertainment, “Identity” is very solid
stuff. It starts and finishes in 90 minutes, and the trailers in
front of the film were solid--extended takes for
“28 Days Later”,
“Charlie’s Angels 2”,
“Pirates of the Caribbean”, and
the Quentin Tarantino action-comedy
“Kill Bill” all were
well-received. Damn, I love trailers.
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard