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A movie directed by James Mangold

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You've got a good cast, a good set-up, some nice direction: but where's the mystery?

  • Feb 23, 2012
** 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 people really don't know one another, even if potential connections are seemingly implied at every twist and turn that the decidedly simple tale takes.

I don't think it's essential to name any of these people. I will just list their occupations. There is a husband (John C. McGinley), the ill-fated wife (Leila Kenzle), a mute child (Bret Loehr), a limo driver (John Cusack), a prostitute (Amanda Peet), a lady newlywed (Clea DuVall), the male newlywed (William Lee Scott), a rich and snobby Hollywood actress (Rebecca De Mornay), a local police officer (Ray Liotta), an escape convict that he's holding prisoner (Jake Busey), and the Motel owner (John Hawkes). A side-plot that, by the end, becomes something much more than that, involves a hearing for convicted murderer Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince), his Samuel Loomis-like psychiatrist (Alfred Molina), and a record number of attorneys and lawyers.

So there are two stories going on at once; but by the end, let's just say it all comes together. Who am I to say whether it does so convincingly or not? How you react to the twist ending, the resolution (if there really is one at all; I'm skeptical), and the overall payoff depends on whether you were able to buy into the premise and the characters that occupy the plot. In all honesty, I didn't buy it. I found the situation and the end twist way too ridiculous; and when it all finally started to make a little sense, and all was revealed, the film should have ended, but unfortunately it goes on for a good unneeded couple dozen minutes more.

There's some good acting put into the project, in spite of some truly absurd dialogue, and Mangold knows how to skillfully direct a thriller that serves its purpose for more than twenty minutes; but I can't shake the feeling that "Identity", a mystery-thriller with the side-sensibilities of a slasher picture, should have been so much better given the talent involves in its making. I liked the cinematography and a few of the performances are, as I mentioned, really good; but the tension doesn't last long enough, and neither does the suspense. Personal opinions aside (you will either like this movie or you will not); mysteries need both of those ingredients to be successful. Or at least, last time I checked they did; but perhaps times have changed.

Nevertheless, "Identity" is a movie that commits an unspeakable, unforgivable sin; it is never boring, yet never completely believable. Beneath this imbalanced thriller, there's a fairly good one; but too many distractions get in the way, to the point where I just couldn't see anything good being derived out of the experience. Obviously, I'll give credit where credit is due - and I already have - but what the film amounts to is a disappointingly mediocre experience with a slew of moments both good and maddeningly bad. Good or not, I'd still encourage anyone interested in either the thriller or horror genres to check this one out, as it embodies elements from both, although one might be discouraged when they discover that the film is doing nothing more (or less) than finding diversions and complications in order to engage, and if you ask me, that just isn't right.

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More Identity (2003 movie) reviews
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 . October 10, 2003
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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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … 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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