Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Alternate ending; Director's commentary;
Writer's commentary; 5 deleted scenes (4 with optional commentary);
Cast and crew filmographies; Making of; 3 storyboard comparisons;
TEN strangers arrive at a rain-swept hotel in the middle of nowhere
and find themselves being bumped off, one by one. One of them
is a murderer and, until they can discover the thing that connects
them, the killing wont stop.
Its a familiar premise, harking back to Agatha Christies
classic novel, Ten Little Indians, but the execution, for want
of a better word, is something a little bit special.
Copland director, James Mangold, has pulled out all the stops
to make Identity one of the more preposterously enjoyable whodunnits
in recent memory, bringing together another first-rate ensemble
cast and clearly having fun within the confines of the genre.
For starters, theres John Cusacks cynical former
cop, turned limo-driver, who, at the top of the movie, is involved
in an accident while escorting Rebecca DeMornays egotistical
TV star to a function.
Then theres Amanda Peets uptight hooker, a bickering
pair of newlyweds (played by Clea DuVall and William Lee Scott);
a woman (Leila Kenzle) who has been hit by a car, accompanied
by her distressed husband (John C McGinley) and her eerily quiet
young son (Bret Loehr), and, to cap it all off, Ray Liottas
nervous cop, who is transporting a psychotic prisoner (Jake Busey).
All wind up at a creepy motel presided over by John Hawkes
weasily manager, in the middle of the night, after becoming trapped
by a rainstorm of near biblical proportions. And then the killing
With the premise established as quickly as possible, Mangold
begins mixing his genres, expertly fusing elements of horror with
those of a psychological thriller, and throwing in plenty of nods
to similar movies.
So while audiences are sure to have fun ticking off the references,
there is equal mileage to be gained in attempting to unravel the
identity of the killer, which remains well-hidden, thanks to Michael
Cooneys elaborate puzzle of a script, that successfully
manages to toy with viewers perceptions until pulling the
rug right out from under them.
Mangolds direction is kept suitably taut, sustaining the
tension from the opening moments, while a foreboding sense of
dread permeates proceedings, keeping things creepy throughout,
without feeling the need to become overly gruesome.
The performances, too, are first-rate, with Cusack the pick of
the bunch, as the tormented detective forced to confront his own
disillusionment as a result of the murders, and Liotta and Peet
making the most of some well-written roles.
Identity may, ultimately, be nothing more than a slice of pulp
fiction for the movie masses, but audiences should be having too
much fun to notice. It grips from start to finish and is an engrossing
piece of quality escapism.