Keeps you guessing
Kathleen Marcellino of Burbank is a retired property manager.
At first blush, “Identity” looks like a regular who-dun-it, but
James Mangold’s thoughtful direction and Michael Cooney’s tightly
written script produces a gem of a thriller: Just when you think
you’ve guessed the killer, they, too, wind up dead.
Ten travelers seek refuge at a seedy Nevada desert motel from a
violent thunderstorm that has made the highway impassible. A pompous,
has-been TV star Caroline (Rebecca DeMornay) arrives with chauffeur
Ed (John Cusack), a former L.A. cop who has seen better days. They’re
accompanied by a harrowed husband (John C. McGinley), whose wife
(Leila Kenzle) was seriously hurt on the highway, and her small,
somewhat disturbing son (Bret Loehr) by a previous marriage.
A none-too-sharp policeman (Ray Liotta) transporting a menacing
prisoner (Jake Busey), newlyweds (Clea Du Vall and William Lee
Scott), and a worldly-wise call girl (Amanda Peet) join the group who
are given rooms one to 10 (naturally) by slimy motel manager (John
A series of gruesome murders follows, while the movie cuts to a
psychiatrist (Alfred Molina) arguing for a stay of execution for a
killer (Pruitt Taylor Vince). The connection is cleverly, gradually
and convincingly revealed.
Ingeniously worked thriller
Maurice Barnfather of Burbank is a freelance writer and
Mix Agatha Christie’s classic “Ten Little Indians” with a touch of
Stephen King and you get an idea of “Identity,” a simple, yet
ingeniously worked, thriller.
The resemblance to Christie is invited by the main story line: 10
people arrive at a dreary Nevada motel on a thunder- storm-lashed
night, and are given rooms one to 10, and grizzly murders ensue. The
horrific nature of the killings, and the seat-grabbing surprise when
they occur, is pure King.
There the comparison ends. Fine, tight directing, and
scriptwriting, lift “Identity” head and shoulders above your average
thriller-horror film. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine anyone actually
guessing the killer until the director slowly, and tantalizingly,
begins to let us in on the secret toward the end of the movie.
Top-notch performances from John Cusack and Ray Liotta, with an
intelligent portrayal by Amanda Peet of a resolute and breathtakingly
beautiful call girl.
“Identity” is rated R for strong language and violence.