Thursday Night Movie Club
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Release Date: April 25, 2003

Director: James Mangold
John Cusack
Ray Liotta
Amanda Peet
John Hawkes
Alfred Molina
Clea DuVall
John C. McGinley
William Lee Scott
Jake Busey
Pruitt Taylor Vince
Rebecca De Mornay
Carmen Argenziano
Marshall Bell
Leila Kenzle
Matt Letscher
Dr. Malick
George York
Robert Maine
Malcolm Rivers
Caroline Suzanne
Defense Lawyer
District Attorney
Alice York
Assistant District Attorney
Identity movie poster
John Cusack and Ray Liotta in IdentityRemember Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho"? Identity borrows from that and many other works of fiction. Agatha Christie comes to mind as is mentioned in the film for those who don't know about the classic Christie novel, "And Then There Were None", that is the basis for numerous films.

In an absolutely brilliant opening sequence, completely random events converge and intertwine upon several travelers on the "road of life". They find themselves coming together at a run-down motel in the middle of God-forsaken nowhere on a "dark and stormy night where the rain is coming down in sheets of lead". Tragedy, happenstance, circumstance and a little bit of devine intervention bring 10 strangers together.

Two of the strangers happen to be a policeman. Ed (John Cusack) is an burned-out ex-cop now working as a security guard for a famous actress, Caroline Suzanne. Rhodes (Ray Liotta) is transferring his prisoner (Jake Bussey). When the drugged prisoner escapes and murder follows, the game is afoot!

The game is the above mentioned Christie classic "And Then There Were None ", with a twist. In the novel, strangers are murdered on a remote island. In identity, the victims all end up with numbered room keys. Interestingly, the room keys are not discovered until after one of the travelers randomly states that this is just like the novel. Coindidence... I think not! Nothing in this movie is coincidence.

Juxtaposed with the motel mayhem is a lawyer and psychiatrist attempting a death-row pardon of a serial killer with last-minute evidence for an insanity plea.

Amanda Peete as Paris in Identity"What does all of this mean?", you ask yourself. If the above isn't confusing, it gets worse. When the prisoner attempts to flee to freedom, he "mysteriously" ends up back at the motel where he is promptly captured. When the murders continue, it is absolutely clear that no one knows who the killer is. When the numbered keys seemingly go out of order and another victim falls prey to an "accident", the supernatural enters the picture. Nothing makes any sense. As the number of survivors grows smaller, it becomes slim pickens to identify the killer.

This should make it easier. Except, just like Agatha Christie, there is a huge red herring in this movie. Hint: It has to do with the number 10 and someone that may not really have been killed. That's enough... almost!

Remember being duped by "The Sixth Sense". Here, the identity of the killer is also revealed in the opening mayhem. It is a subtle piece of film making that the brain immediately recognizes as odd and then puts it "on the back burner" for later reference. Mistake...

Do not read this paragraph is you don't want me to spoil the ending... I'll be subtle so you're on your own. Hint: Count the number of people actually hiding out at the motel? As I hinted at earlier, this discrepancy leads to the true identity of the killer, but that isn't revealed until the climax.

Identity takes the road less traveled crossing more switch tracks than ins a train yard. It goes up and down more blind alleys than a starved rat. Nothing is as it seemingly appears, even the scenes with the lawyer and the psychiatrist.

John Cusack as Ed in IdentityDirector Mangold and writer Michael Cooney have conspired to cook up a smorgasbord of fishing etiquette. Red herrings don't quite cut it. This is more like red whales. The story becomes more and more implausiable. As it does so, it becomes more rooted in the sidebar story of the death-row pardon.

Trust me! As with the classic "The Big Sleep", everything in Identity eventually makes perfect sense. The killer's identity is revealed in an amazing plot twist. The 10th plot twist to be exact. Actually, I just made up that last part myself, but it makes me wonder... I just might have to see this on DVD and see if I am right.

If you've been paying attention, I have been using the word or a variation of "identity" quite a bit in this review. The movie is appropriately named, even more so than "The Sixth Sense". This movie is about revealing a hidden "identity". The question: Can you identify the identity of the killer? When Ed repeatedly tells Paris (Amanda Peet) "trust me." Do you believe him or does your skin crawl or...

Identity has a little bit of everything: murder mystery, who done it, supernatural elements, mad slasher, changing allegiences, etc. Great script writing!

2003 is fixing to be the summer of the "nothing is as it seems", see the previously released "Basic" and "Confidence". I wonder if it is just a coincidence that all 3 of these movies have one-word titles.