REVIEW BY ALEX GRANT.
Directed by James Mangold
Starring John Cussak, Rebecca de Mornay, Ray Liotta
by one and room by room the characters meet grotesque ends at
the hands of an unseen homicidal maniac'
Mangolds idiosyncratic thriller IDENTITY takes every single tried-and
true trick out of the horror-suspense textbook and then some. It is
ruthless in its determination to taunt and torture us. The setting :
a rain-swept desert motel in Nevada built upon an ancient tribal burial
ground. Thunder and lightning slash through the Joshua trees that gauntly
surround the decrepit hostelry. The characters : the requisite ten guests
forced by circumstance to seek refuge; as mixed a bag of phonies as
you could ever hope for. The plot : one by one and room by room the
characters meet grotesque ends at the hands of an unseen homicidal maniac,
who is more ubiquitous and efficient than any human could be.
Ed (John Cusack) is a former burnt-out Los Angeles cop turned limo driver
ferrying a fading actress Caroline Suzanne ( Rebecca de Mornay) to L.A.
Rhodes (Ray Liotta) is a cop ferrying a berserk mutliple murderer Robert
Maine (Jake Busey) to prison. Both seem to be responsible take-charge
type guys. But neither can stem the massacre at the motel
Meantime a midnight hearing for another multiple murderer Malcolm Rivers
introduces a very sympathetic shrink who holds the key to this maddening
mystery, Rivers is supposed to be executed within 24 hours but his overlooked
diaries describe his multiple- personality disorder that implicates
many of the characters stranded in the desert.
The biggest surprise of all is sprung on us two-thirds of the way through
this elaborate scenario and its will take you the rest of the brief
running-time of IDENTITY to recover from this sudden sharp turn in the
road. The sheer energy and pure hysteria that fuels the initial hour
is very appealing though the B movie conventions that come
so thick and fast from every shadowy corner and behind every creaking
door jamb just fall short of becoming really tiresome. Once the shrink
tries to wrap up the case into a neat identity-crisis that should let
the Death Row candidate off the hook the plot takes us to sunny Florida
where the plot thickens even more creakily would you believe
a demonic child seemingly possessed and another convict en route to
life-imprisonment who can overpower his custodians ? Well director Mangold
and screenwriter Michael Cooney chose to fling credibility to the winds
early on so of course any new ruse to trick us de rigeur. These men
have no shame ripping pages vigorously from the play book and to hell
with the consequences.
© Alex Grant April 25th 2003
all rights reserved