From its previews and hyped advertising campaign, one would think that Identity was a creepy psychological thriller. In reality, it is little more than a glorified slasher movie.
The premise is that ten people are brought together at a motel one dark and stormy night. The characters are varied, but they are all trying to drive through the heavy rain. The chain of events that brings them to the motel starts with a simple shoe on the road, which fell out of the car of a prostitute. The shoe causes the tire of another car to blow, and as the family of three is trying to fix it, the mother is hit by a movie star’s car. While the chauffeur (John Cusack) tries to get to a hospital for an ambulance, he picks up the prostitute, whose car has run out of gas. Then they find out the road is flooded, and hitch a ride with a newlywed couple. The amassed group checks in to the motel, and then two more people check in: a cop and his convict charge.
Parallel to this story we also have an impromptu court appeal happening at the same time for a man who went on a killing spree. We are told that the man needs a new ruling because evidence was withheld - evidence that shows he was under the influence of one of his other personalities while the murders happened. While they wait for the defendant to arrive, the people at the motel start dying.
Thankfully the first to go is the actress, because I don’t think I could listen to her for the entire movie and have her end up being the hero. Jack-of-all-trades John Cusack and cop Ray Liotta try to track down the killer while the other guests gather together and start to “get to know” each other. Of course, this leads to arguing and people going off alone, which means more deaths. The obvious choice of killer is wrong, by the way; however, he does reveal one part of the twisted plot when he tries to escape the motel - even if you go away, you end up at the same place. As the numbers go down, the motel guests attempt to figure out why they are all together - apparently this must all be due to coincidence. As it turns out they do all have the same birthday: May 10th. If that’s why they are dying, I’m glad I was born a day later.
Despite a talented cast (Cusack, Liotta, Alfred Molina, and Amanda Peet), the movie falters because of its script. Characters make stupid choices and some of the lines are just plain corny. The movie does have a twist at the end which might explain some of this, but it also is a cop-out for poor writing. Also, Alfred Molina is completely wasted, as his role of a psychiatrist is limited to less than ten minutes of screen time.
However, the camerawork is good, giving plenty of dark, creepy shots to help set the mood. Rain is always a good element when it comes to murder, right? The twist ending did surprise me, and I did like the method of “counting down” the victims with room key numbers. The filmmakers manage to make you forget about that element when it is most crucial, which helps cut down on the absurdity of the very end of the movie. The killer will surprise you, but I’m not sure if I can take many more of those kinds of characters in scary movies.
Identity means well, but it just isn’t worth the movie theatre price. Check this one out at your local second-run (read: cheap) theatre or wait for the rental release.
Starring: John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Alfred Molina, Amanda Peet, John C. McGinley, Jake Busey, Rebecca De Mornay
Official Website: www.sonypictures.com/movies/identity/
Directed by: James Mangold