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A movie directed by James Mangold

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Identity: Yep, I Saw That Coming

  • Oct 10, 2003
  • by
Pros: good cast, entertaining, John Hawkes is fantastic, interesting premise

Cons: could have been done a little better, distracting cinematography, some continuity flaws

The Bottom Line: A great idea, yet a mediocre film. Good cast, interesting script, but they got too cocky. See if you can figure it out yourself.

That's right, yet another film fest at my house. This time, Mechelle and I rented Identity, starring John Cusak, Amanda Peet and Ray Liotta. Mechelle had heard from her fiance that the movie was terrific, so we decided to give it a try.

There is a storm. It's a very bad storm. People that are driving are getting stuck because the road is flooded on two ends, and there is no way out. Fortunately, there is a motel in the middle. The ten people that get stuck find themselves in the motel for shelter. One by one, the people start dying in pretty horrific ways. They are obviously being murdered. The remaining people must find the killer - and uncover the secret that brought them all together - in order to survive.

Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards) as Paris, the call girl
Usually, I don't like Amanda Peet. I find her very whiny and reliant on her looks. That just doesn't impress me. However, she is quite good in Identity, which surprised the heck out of me. Truth be told, Peet was one of the reasons why I didn't want to see this film. Her delivery is fantastic. Her characterization of Paris is terrific. Of course, she won't get any sort of award nod for this, but she was really good. Perhaps Peet is finally growing as an actress.

John Cusak (America's Sweethearts) as Ed, the limo driver
What can I say about Cusak? I like him. I really, really do. I never got into his older movies, such as Say Anything, but I think that he is a really good actor. Whether comedy or drama, Cusak won't let you down. His characterization is fantastic, although it is a bit far-fetched when he performs sutures on one of the characters.

Ray Liotta (Good Fellas) as Rhodes, the cop
Liotta is such a great bad guy. He just looks like a bad guy. But, he seems to play the same character in all of his films. I think he's typecast in these badass roles. It's a shame, really. I'm sure he's got a huge acting range.

Rebecca DeMornay (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) as Caroline Suzanne, the diva
DeMornay isn't in the film for all that long. I didn't even realize it was her, as she traded her blonde tresses for brunette. They couldn't have cast better for this role. DeMornay really grates on the nerves as the self-absorbed, spoiled diva trying to get back to Los Angeles. You think to yourself, "Man, I wish she'd die already," then feel bad when she does.

John Hawkes (Deadwood) as Larry, the motel manager
I nearly fell off my chair when I saw Hawkes on the screen. Mechelle and I were watching and there was suddenly a close-up of my friend, John. I yelled, "Oh my God!! That's John! I didn't know he was in this!!" John works on Deadwood with me as Sol Star. I had a conversation with him the week before on set. I didn't know that he was some famous guy. He looked familiar to me, but I didn't know who he was. We even tried to figure out where we may know each other from. You could imagine my surprise when I saw him in this film. (He's been in a lot of others, too, but none I've really seen.)
Hawkes is fantastic as the neurotic, seedy motel manager, Larry. He seems like one of the bad guys, but he has these morals. It's bizarre, and Hawkes does a great job of making his character entirely believable.

The other characters/actors are good, although nothing really outstanding. The five I mentioned above are the ones that really stand out in my mind. They truly make the movie.

The cinematography in Identity has been compared to that of Memento. I can't comment on that, as I haven't seen Memento, nor do I have any desire to. However, I do think that it is comparable to the cinematography in Any Given Sunday. The direction is very Oliver Stone-esque. However, Director James Mangold has never worked with Stone. (But, Mangold did work with Clea DuVall on Girl, Interrupted, which is probably why she was cast as Ginny in this film.) Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael never worked with Stone, either. (However, Papamichael was the cinematographer on Cusak's film America's Sweethearts.)
I don't like cinematography done in this fashion. The cuts are too abrupt and the film doesn't flow. In hindsight, after seeing the end of the film, I understand why they do this. The human mind doesn't work in a straight line-- We've got jagged and dotted lines in many cases. Sometimes we think in circles and angles. (You'll understand this if you've seen the film... Or after you've seen it.) Even though it makes sense later, I did not like sitting through it.

Identity is only 90 minutes long. It's aggravating because I would have liked to have seen more character development on some of the lesser characters. Out of the 10 characters we meet at the motel, we only really get to know Ed and Paris. One character lies in a bed the entire time. It's quite frustrating, and I don't know why this is done. Yet, if the film was any longer it would have been too long and the ending wouldn't have been a surprise to as many people.

Identity is a good film. However, I had the ending figured out about 15 minutes into the film, as soon as they arrived at the motel. Mechelle figured it out half an hour later. My friend, Trygve told me he had it figured out 1/2 an hour into the film. I hate that. I want to be surprised by a movie like this. I shouldn't have been able to figure it out so quickly. The reason I figured it out was because they were too cocky with the idea that people wouldn't pay attention to the newspaper clippings in the beginning of the film. I pay attention to everything regarding the plot when I watch a film. Perhaps it's because I'm a writer; I don't know. If they just showed the newspaper clippings without the photos, I would have had a harder time figuring it out. (I won't tell you what the photos are of-- You can go ahead and watch for yourself. See if you can figure it out, too.)
Yes, the film is entertaining. Yes, the majority of the cast is good. Yes, it can be enjoyed by both sexes. No, it isn't intellectually stimulating. No, it didn't make an impression on me. Those are the questions I ask when giving the stars at the end of a review. Therefore, I give Identity three stars.


Movie Mood: If Your First Choice is Sold Out
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Ending

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More Identity (2003 movie) reviews
review by . February 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****    A dark and stormy night. Many cars stranded in muck. A fatal collision between human flesh and hard metal. All three of these things contribute to the gathering of ten strangers in a single location - a Motel somewhere in Nevada -, an element which is the drive for the rest of the plot to come in James Mangold's "Identity". The story was inspired by an Agatha Christie mystery story - "And Then There Were None" - and indeed there is a mystery at the core. These …
review by . September 23, 2009
I have mentioned before that I love books and movies that keep me guessing.  Nothing is more of a put off to me than figuring out exactly what is going on within the first few chapters of a book or the first few minutes of a move.  That's why I love this movie so much.  Like JACOB'S LADDER, this one had me confused until nearly the very end.  An Indian curse?  Ghosts?  A homocidal maniac?  When the real answer came (and I won't give it away in case …
review by . November 03, 2008
The movie begins with a subplot of a killer's interview. Next, on a dark and stormy night, many lives will come together. George York (John C. McGinley - Dr. Cox from Scrubs) along with his wife Alice and stepson Timothy have a blowout. Alice is hit by limo driver Ed (John Cusack) driving movie star Caroline (Rebecca De Mornay). They rush to the closest phone, which is at an out-of-the-way hotel. Joining them for the evening, also trapped by the storm and flooding, is hooker Paris (how appropriate) …
review by . June 12, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: cast     Cons: the obivous     The Bottom Line: "I have wrestled with this nightmare,   Now I live inside a dream   I'm going through a crisis,   Losing my identity"   ~ Blaze      It is a bit difficult to discuss this movie without giving away anything. I will admit I had a bit of fun with this one, figuring out who the bad guy/gal was from the onset. I know, from past experience, when they …
review by . December 17, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
From first glance, IDENTITY really doesn't seem that great. However, as one begins watching the film, you are swept up into the movie's engaging plot. As a thriller, it's great and as a thriller with a twist it's one of the most original to come around in a long time. IDENTITY revolves around 10 people who all become stranded at the same creepy motel on a dark and story night. Somehow contected to all of this is the hearing concerning a bald-headed mass murderer. This hearing doesn't come into play …
review by . October 10, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: good cast, entertaining, John Hawkes is fantastic, interesting premise     Cons: could have been done a little better, distracting cinematography, some continuity flaws     The Bottom Line: A great idea, yet a mediocre film. Good cast, interesting script, but they got too cocky. See if you can figure it out yourself.     That's right, yet another film fest at my house. This time, Mechelle and I rented Identity, starring John Cusak, …
review by . September 18, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
This movie, starring John Cussack, takes place mostly within the mind of a character who is an accused killer. This is not evident in the film until there is a switch in scene to the criminal defendant and his legal and psychiatric team. This makes the film intriguing, and sets the stage for the search for the true killer within the personality "alters" of the main drama. This leads to a surprise ending, which may not be too surprising to those familiar with real life multiple personality and dissociative …
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Candice Cain ()
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I own the Candy Cain Travel Co. in Brookhaven, NY. I am a certified Professional Bridal Consultant with the Association of Bridal Consultants and my agency is certified by IATA and CLIA. I specialize … more
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About this movie


Starring John Cusack, Ray Liotta, John C. McGinley, Rebecca De Mornay
Directed by James Mangold
Writer: Michael Cooney

With an ace up its sleeve,Identitydoes for schizophrenia whatThe Silence of the Lambsdid for fava beans and a nice chianti. On the proverbial dark and stormy night, this anxiety-laced thriller offers a tasty blend ofAnd Then There Were NoneandPsycho, with a dash ofSybilfor extra spice and psychosis. Things go from bad to worse when 10 unrelated travelers converge at an isolated motel and proceed to die, one by one, with no apparent connection... until they discover the common detail that's drawn them into this nightmare of relentless trauma. Even as it flunks Abnormal Psychology 101, Michael Cooney's screenplay offers meaty material for a superior ensemble cast including John Cusack and Rebecca DeMornay (who wins the Janet Leigh prize in a bitchy comeback role). Director James Mangold pivots the action around one character (played by hisHeavystar, Pruitt Taylor Vince, in eye-twitching cuckoo mode), and half the fun ofIdentitycomes from deciphering who's who, what's what, and who'll be the next to die.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: James Mangold
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: April 25, 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: James Mangold, Michael Cooney
DVD Release Date: September 2, 2003
Runtime: 1hr 30min
Studio: Columbia Pictures, Columbia Tristar, Sony Pictures
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