Identity Review

A motel miles from anywhere. Mobile phones don't pick up a signal here. And it's pouring with rain. Just where you wouldn't want to be stuck with a mass murderer on the prowl, adding to his (or her?) list of victims. There's George (John C. McGinley), whose wife Alice (Leila Kenzie) has been run over by a car. In the car was Ed (John Cusack), an ex-cop chauffeuring actress Caroline Suzanne (Rebecca DeMornay). Prostitute Paris (Amanda Peet) hitched a ride with Ed when her own car broke down. Then there are Ginny (Clea Duvall) and Lou (William Lee Scott), who just got married. And another cop, Rhodes (Ray Liotta), who's transporting a murderer, Robert Maine (Jake Busey).

We also see a doctor (Alfred Molina) assessing serial killer Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince) just before he's due to be executed. How the two plots fit together I'll leave you to find out.

It's the oldest situation in the book, the best-known variation being Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. There's also a big twist in store, which might seem a little less original than it might, if a similar one hadn't been used in a certain fairly recent film. Identity has the air of a genre/stylistic exercise for James Mangold, who up to now has specialised in character-driven films (Heavy, CopLand and Girl, Interrupted). He and writer Michael Cooney use every trick in the book, such as freeze frames and backtracking, interlocking flashbacks (further into the past each time) filling in the necessary exposition. They also come up with a couple of reasonably tense sequences. The actors are fine given that their roles don't give them much to play with. The film was entirely studio-shot, but that would be hard to tell as Mark Friedberg's production design and Phedon Papamichael's Scope camerawork do an excellent job in suspending your disbelief. And at 90 minutes the film doesn't outstay its welcome.

Identity won't win any prizes for originality, but it shows a talented director flexing his muscles and trying something new. It's like an accomplished band belting out an old standard one more time, but when it's done as slickly as this you can't really complain.



out of 10

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