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Identity (15)


Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

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; Theatrical trailer.

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 won’t stop.

It’s a familiar premise, harking back to Agatha Christie’s 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, there’s John Cusack’s cynical former cop, turned limo-driver, who, at the top of the movie, is involved in an accident while escorting Rebecca DeMornay’s egotistical TV star to a function.

Then there’s Amanda Peet’s 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 Liotta’s 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 starts…

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 Cooney’s elaborate puzzle of a script, that successfully manages to toy with viewers’ perceptions until pulling the rug right out from under them.

Mangold’s 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.

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