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James MangoldJohn Cusack, Rebecca De Mornay, Ray Liotta, Alfred Molina, John C. McGinley, Jake Busey, Amanda Peet, Clea Du Vall

Synopsis: When a nasty storm hits a hotel, ten strangers are stranded within and as they begin to know each other, they discover they are being killed off one by one.

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Identity (2003)
Identity - Score

Identity Review
Review: It was a weekend of ensemble casts. I caught Confidence and Identity and believe me when I say, in both cases, the material was good, but it was the cast that helped elevate both above mediocrity.

Identity succeeds in so many ways despite cliché upon cliché in part to the clever editing, directing and casting that one journeys further into the tale than they might expect to be taken.

We are told the story in fragments, a mini-van gets a flat and as the tire is being repaired a woman is run over by a car. Another flip in perspective and we are shown a limo driver arguing with an actress in the backseat. A body hits the windshield. More fragments follow where we meet a hooker leaving behind a life that seems worth leaving though details seem sketchy.

Cut to a midnight court hearing where a man is in the 11th hour, waiting to be executed, but it turns out crucial evidence has been uncovered which might prove, if not innocence then incompetence for murder.

As the tale is told all these characters converge, including a cop and his prisoner and a young couple who have just been married. These 10 strangers are all trapped in a hotel, and something evil is afoot, killing them off one by one. None of the strangers can trust one another for sure and as each body is discovered with a room key, counting down the remaining survivors it seems, you begin to wonder if anyone is telling the truth.

The casting sets this film apart from what would be a fine, relatively unseen film if the budget hadn’t been in place to land the names it has. Amanda Peet brings a quirky, sexy and oddly unfazed hooker into sharp focus. John Cusack excels as the everyman, the man you wish you could be under the same dire circumstances, a calming voice, a man of action when necessary and a man of know how even when sewing up a woman’s throat.

Jake Busey does little more than play his typical psycho role, but when you have something nailed that easily and people wish to pay you for your talents, why change? Also keeping to the status quo is Ray Liotta who always seems a touch unnerving on screen. Even as Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams he has moments where you think he might go Scorsese with that bat and teach Costner a lesson or two.

Another noteworthy performance is that of John Hawke’s as Larry the motel manager. As everyone’s tale is told to bring you up to date on their backgrounds, Larry’s is a sad, bizarre one that seemed to get beyond his control and it almost becomes morbidly funny.

Despite the trappings of the horror and thriller genres, Identity manages to elevate itself over both a gore film and the traditional whodunnit while mixing elements of both. None of the murders are pleasant to behold nor does the camera revel in overdoing the blood.

From the opening frames the audience is taken directly into the story, the set-up of character helps push the plot along and at times, almost seems to move at a freight train rate, assaulting the viewer with some very nasty side stories.

The film does play games with your mind, but at the same time, it never truly lies to you. To say too much would be to give away a necessary part of the story and as I would hate to receive hate email upon hate email, I’ll avoid that. Just sit back and watch the film, and don’t jump to a ‘hate it/like it’ response once the end credits run, this is a film that wants you to think a little bit, and the examination of the tale is at least worthy of that.

Certainly not the shocker ending of a Sixth Sense or the sheer nastiness of a film like Seven, Identity is a reasonable, well crafted piece of work certainly above mere dismissal and that’s why I throw it the above average 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul
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DVD Information:

Alternate Ending
Director Commentary
Deleted Scenes
Storyboard Comparisons

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