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‘Identity’ has all elements of great murder mysteries

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

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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,

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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

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are given rooms one to 10 (naturally) by slimy motel manager (John

Hawkes).

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

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journalist.

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.


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