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Hacktreks 2

First Chapters


Directed by James Mangold

Starring John Cussak, Rebecca de Mornay, Ray Liotta

'one by one and room by room the characters meet grotesque ends at the hands of an unseen homicidal maniac'

James Mangold’s 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

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