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9 reviews, 123 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"Just Another Ludicrous So-Called Thriller"
1 stars

The previews make you want to salivate. The film, however, makes you want to hurl.

Just when I thought the insidious The Life of David Gale was a cinch for the Nuttiest Film of the Year award, along comes something even nuttier: the new thriller Identity. We're talking Fruit Loops City here, folks. Less logical than the widespread successes of mediocrities Nicole Kidman and Halle Berry, less intelligent than the moron who initiated putting noisily eaten popcorn in my church (a.k.a. the almighty theatre), more unintentionally hilarious than the bogus term "compassionate conservatism", it's so palpably absurd you have to assume the studio execs who greenlit it must have done so while going through detox at the Betty Ford Clinic. How else to explain them approving not only the wretched screenplay by the man who both wrote and directed the lame Jack Frost and the even-lamer Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman but a director as substandard as James Mangold, who's never handled a thriller before and whose resume consists of half-baked goods like Cop Land and Kate & Leopold? If this isn't grounds for a year-long stay in a mental institution, then I'm Vin Diesel with bangs. Still, as a film reviewer, it's part of the duty to go into every film without a biased pretense -- a clouded sense of objectivity can make you resist surprisingly good moments you might otherwise be highly receptive to -- and, being starved for a good psychological thriller after having endured the recent calamities The Recruit and Basic, I was fairly revved up for Identity. After all, the previews looked promising, the casting of John Cusack and Ray Liotta is always a good thing, and the story's central premise of ten strangers being systematically picked off one by one while holed up in an isolated motel on a rainy night is irresistible (even though the last film to borrow from author Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians was the godawful Sylvester Stallone star vehicle Eye See You from last year). I even managed to look past the fact that the cinematographer was Phedon Papamichael, a man of dubious talent who is to lighting what Jerry Jones is to coaching advice. What on earth could go wrong? How much time do you have?

Most botched thrillers start off rather decently before taking a plausibility nosedive after the first thirty minutes or so, but Identity is screwy even from the get-go, what with its wide assortment of whopping coincidences to get each character to the motel. True, there is an inner logic to this as is relayed later on; truer still, since it's relayed to us way on down the line, we're deprived for too long of a logic to the illogical, and being that this isn't a supernatural thriller, the plausibility factor keeps you from taking any of it seriously. The killings are gruesome, but also campy (like a baseball bat stuffed down someone's throat, for example), as you would expect to find in a cheesy slasher flick. Again, there's a logic to this; and again, we're made wise to it far too long down the way, so instead of being white-knuckled, we're perplexed as to how we're supposed to have an emotional stake in a story that seems to be canceling itself out with all this campiness. If the film had simply introduced what serves as its surprise twist from the onset and developed it, the results might been riveting. Of course, that may have deprived it of a surprise twist at the end; then again, with as interesting a film as could have been turned out, it wouldn't have needed one, either. Screenwriter Cooney wasn't necessarily wrong in leaving the twist until the eighty-minute mark, but, in a major miscalculation, he's provided the audience with little to suitably involve us before it's revealed, and Mangold's impersonal, lumbering direction isn't agile enough to help glide over all these built-in flaws. Not only is the pacing unforgivably slack (a major no-no in any thriller), the camerabatics bland (even John Waters could make better use of 'Scope composition), but the set-ups to the murders are too straightforward (the camera lingers forever on a woman alone in the back of the motel when we all know she's about to become a toe-tagged statistic). This director who specializes in talking heads is all-thumbs when it comes to conjuring up and sustaining suspense -- the pregnant pauses are as plentiful as the amount of dopey characters.

The actors acquit themselves nicely (with Cusack displaying a newfound assertiveness that lends his screen presona some richness), but they're not playing the kind of three-dimensional characters that would challenge them and enthrall us. And here's the thing: the filmmakers will defend this as being in keeping with the inner logic of the piece. Ultimately, everything in it is a put-on, and this supposedly gives the film immunity from its immense flaws in those first eighty minutes; but these weaknesses are flaws for the aforementioned reasons, and they don't get exalted simply because they're supporting the surprise twist. Identity gives you practically nothing, and, worse, it expects you to be grateful for all this nothingness because it's allowed you to be made privy to its big secret. (The film has a sense of logic that's as topsy-turvy as the mind-set of its deranged killer.) Some will defend Identity as a sly deconstruction of audience expectations of modern cinema, and if this intention had been filled out more and the referential points had been sharper, then this would be acceptable; but, like the dreary Scream series, it hypocritically relies on the very same conventions it's looking to skewer, so you're uncertain of how to respond to it (like its far-from-subtle references to Psycho involving, besides the motel itself, a shower curtain; and to The Shining, with the mention of Indian burial grounds). Things could have been somewhat redeemed had the story moved at a fever clip, so you didn't have time to linger over all the inconsistencies (oh, I'm sorry, relevances), and drenched with eerie Gothic atmospherics instead of all that fucking rain (it's a wonder why everyone at the motel doesn't come down with pneumonia), but the filmmakers were obviously too self-satisfied to try very hard. After all, they had their surprise twist! Oh, whodunit? I'm obliged not to reveal, but I will confess the identity will provide more laughter than a dozen brain-dead prime-time sitcoms.

Gag me.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7563&reviewer=327
originally posted: 04/26/03 14:30:22
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User Comments

5/08/18 Lily was interested in the set up, but the cop out and ableist ending made me regret watching it 2 stars
11/05/11 The Door Interesting, engaging, creepy ... then instant fail for the "it was all a dream" ending. 2 stars
9/17/10 Jesse Joseph Kept my interest but left me wondering what in the end really occurred. 4 stars
6/13/09 Seamus Brilliantly written film with a terrible, dissapointing, cop-out, cliche ending. 2 stars
10/26/08 Jobin Basani Its worth a watch...i loved the ending 4 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome storyline! 5 stars
2/29/08 Tammy Kennedy very good movie, keeps you guessing 4 stars
8/06/07 Quigley Pretty cool thriller that actually felt original. Average plot twist. Cusack was great 5 stars
3/06/07 Stanley Thai A Very Clever Thriller of whodunnit. 4 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday Nothing really spectacular about it, and the end was kind of predictable. 3 stars
2/08/07 Raph Branca Brilliant film full of twists and turns. Classic. 5 stars
1/17/07 William Goss Not entirely surprising, but admirably taut nonetheless. 4 stars
4/20/06 Becky Cusack is perfect. A thriller that makes you think. + Al Molina, whoo! 5 stars
2/13/06 Frank Rountree A good movie to watch on a rainy day/night. It keeps you guessing. 4 stars
11/22/05 Melissa I loved it! Great setting, night/rain/hotel/strangers - Suspensfull till the end! 5 stars
10/31/05 R.W.Welch Too gimmicky by half, but has some flair to it. 3 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Deliciously satisfying on so many levels...as clever as a perfect nightmare. 5 stars
6/27/05 R i totally didn't see the end coming! (as in, even after the twist, it just wouldn't end.) 1 stars
2/06/05 Littlepurch Great cast, fantastic 'Agatha Christie' intrigue, impressive mystery, amazin twist. 5 stars
2/02/05 christopher i wanted to know when it was going to end way to soon 1 stars
12/29/04 tatum Excellent, kept me guessing (which is rare these days) 5 stars
9/20/04 Valerie Pretty good, but the ending was kind of weird..... 3 stars
9/01/04 Ice Queen Disturbing 4 stars
8/31/04 uncool this movie is sick 4 stars
6/24/04 Ray Good 5 stars
6/22/04 Freeman A Great who done it, waiting on part 2 5 stars
4/28/04 Chaske Faulk I thought Identity was a very good film. A lot is going on, who doesn't like mysteries? 4 stars
4/25/04 Lord Jiggy Interesting, if a little pat in it's need for the "twist within a twist" ending. 4 stars
4/20/04 zeitgeist Interesting twist, very Philip K Dick-esque. Don't judge it by the awful trailer 4 stars
4/15/04 The More You Know the title deconstructs into id + entity...Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey...j/k 2 stars
4/09/04 LIAM JACKSON Fantastic movie. Excellent twist.Very creepy. 5 stars
3/09/04 dester Not bad at all 4 stars
1/31/04 John Godrich decidedly average 3 stars
1/25/04 American Slasher Goddess Very pointless with the most stupid plot twist I've ever seen. 1 stars
1/02/04 A F How predictable can you get? What a waste of time. 2 stars
12/02/03 re A GREAT FILM 5 stars
11/30/03 HorrorScribbler Great cast, good writing 5 stars
11/22/03 bullit16 Keeps you guessing all the way 4 stars
11/19/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) The big twist saved it from what seemed like an old Hitch pic with cheap modern conventions 4 stars
11/17/03 he a great film 5 stars
11/16/03 Mark Morrissey Creepy fun all the way 4 stars
11/06/03 Richard Ryherd Best movie I have seen in a long while!! 5 stars
10/19/03 gene beattie much ado about nothing 1 stars
10/16/03 Josh Standlee Scary as freaking hell! Ray Liotta and Jake Busey play the best characters! 5 stars
10/13/03 Stephanie Trite and contrived, but entertaining enough. 3 stars
10/13/03 Erik Van Sant Lame attempt at a twist-ending that my girlfriend figured in the first act. OK at best. 3 stars
10/12/03 Brandon Awesome movie! 5 stars
10/11/03 laura paterson confusing and scary.liotta steals it from cusack! 4 stars
10/08/03 snowconehead Formulaic plots that completely shift 3/4 into the film can only be decent at best. 4 stars
10/05/03 Darryl First half bored me (fell asleep). Then I just didn't get it. Confusing plot. 2 stars
9/28/03 cinkcool decent, but im still a sucker for a happy ending 4 stars
9/27/03 Jiz The first few twists were good. But the ending was predictable and shitty. Great otherwise. 4 stars
9/25/03 Ingo A must. One of the best (american) movies this year. 5 stars
9/20/03 Flick Chick boring throughout - interesting end. 3 stars
9/17/03 Maurice The Predator Strange, but quite good 4 stars
9/16/03 May Q. Horney Too many flashbacks&letdowns;yet Good for a film that actually lets Amanda Peet steal show! 4 stars
9/11/03 Kooler saw it coming from miles away 4 stars
9/10/03 tediboy This movie is full of red herrings...a solid thriller! 5 stars
9/04/03 Marisa Please, can somebody explain this movie to me?????? 4 stars
9/04/03 eddie pure genius - if you don't agree with me, you are wrong. I have spoken. 5 stars
8/27/03 anna Intriguing movie marred by SHITTIEST COP OUT ENDING THIS SUMMER. 1 stars
8/26/03 dado great 5 stars
8/25/03 Laurian Diaconescu One of the best movies I've seen in my entire life. I knew John Cusack = a must see. 5 stars
8/15/03 Red great 5 stars
8/05/03 Dave Awesome movie, awesome actors. Great story and plot. 5 stars
7/30/03 Nicole Hated the ending.....dumbfounded that I couldn't see it coming from miles away 3 stars
7/30/03 nr AWESOME 5 stars
7/25/03 Heather Purplethorne Pretty good, although never rose to level of what I expected it to focus on-Alice's amnesia 4 stars
7/24/03 May Q. Horney Too many flashbacks&letdowns;yet Good for a film that actually lets Amanda Peet steal show! 4 stars
7/13/03 Joe great 5 stars
7/10/03 nr great i loved it 5 stars
6/29/03 gray Strong cast, gripping mystery but more could have been done with the characters 4 stars
6/11/03 Rocky Well, shit my mouth and call me a doofus 5 stars
6/10/03 Hottie I thought this was a GREAT movie and the actors did great also! 5 stars
6/03/03 Jen AWESOME!!!! I adore John Cusack!!! Anyhoo, this movie was brilliant!!! 5 stars
5/29/03 mee great 5 stars
5/26/03 malcolm double twist at the end -- nice 4 stars
5/19/03 your worse goddamn nightmare Could someone honestly say what in the fuck this "film" was about? I enjoyed it tho........ 3 stars
5/16/03 olivia great 5 stars
5/13/03 David E. Miller Towards the end, you care less for the people. But it's a cool concept. Great cast! 4 stars
5/11/03 olivia great film 5 stars
5/11/03 Nicole I feel duped....should have seen that ending coming from a mile away 4 stars
5/09/03 Louise Hopper what the hell? 2 stars
5/09/03 Angolmois Pretty clever for a Hollywood movie, which doesn't say much. Dialogue sucks rather bad. 4 stars
5/05/03 Jack Bourbon Stupid, pointless, illogical, silly cop-out of an ending. IT'S CRAP! 1 stars
5/04/03 KCobain Flowers all around. 5 stars
5/04/03 Obi Wan Wow.....ending could have used a bit more work, but still great! 5 stars
5/03/03 Norma Bensley A great thriller - doesn't quite come together as it should.... 5 stars
5/03/03 Duende Fine movie until the idiotic plot twist... 1 stars
5/03/03 Jackson62 Twist was a little too ridiculous but the acting saves it. 4 stars
5/01/03 Nancy Niedzielski some silly, sillu things, but I guess I was entertained 3 stars
5/01/03 Taylor Fladgate Could have been "awesome", except for the ending. Stupid ending. 4 stars
4/30/03 Hooters gurl Intelligent film that will be thouroughly enjoyed by all who have a brain to think with. 5 stars
4/30/03 Flounder This movie is one of the best mystery/horror films that I have seen in quite a long while! 5 stars
4/29/03 Shayla A movie where you get to play detective and use the clues to figure out the end! 5 stars
4/29/03 JJ DuVall needs to stop acting and this has one of the DUMBEST twists in a movie ever!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
4/29/03 blake A GREAT FIL I LOVE IT 5 stars
4/29/03 Kyle I liked it. 4 stars
4/29/03 Dana Carvey must DIE!!! Some clichéd casting (Liotta, Duvall), a gimicky script, twists you see a mile away. But OK 3 stars
4/28/03 Vince some one else said it before - almost great but not quite 4 stars
4/28/03 Worse Than You! Lifeless cliche full of stupid acting choices and a ridiculously funny twist 1 stars
4/28/03 scott GREAT FILM 5 stars
4/28/03 Obi Wan Very good....loved it. 5 stars
4/27/03 maximus Definitely worth a look 4 stars
4/27/03 stud a great film 5 stars
4/27/03 King Richard not bad 4 stars
4/27/03 Blubberbot I liked 4 stars
4/27/03 michaelb14 A good movie that was almost but not quite great 4 stars
4/27/03 Jason Beyer It's a damn good thriller. 4 stars
4/26/03 joedom Love to leave a movie theater and still be thinking about the movie hours later 5 stars
4/26/03 Tyler Nawed my nails off while at the same time laping in the stellar perfomances. 5 stars
4/26/03 Robb Morpheus Except for Cusack, just celluloid toilet paper. 1 stars
4/26/03 Chip I loved it, the crowd clapped at the end 5 stars
4/26/03 Jim lots of twists and turns 4 stars
4/26/03 GuyGuy read what everyone else said 2 stars
4/26/03 George Jung A pointless exercise of psychological masterbation from a killer no one cares about. 1 stars
4/26/03 strider3700 Cusack is awesome. But enough movies with twists at the end already. 4 stars
4/25/03 Jack Sommersby A good-looking but ridiculous, lumbering thriller. Cusack is superb; Liotta is grating. 1 stars
4/25/03 Josh Interesting psychological twist on old formula. Spooky fun. 4 stars
4/25/03 Pete What A HORRIBLE ending. Bad acting bad script goes nowhere. STUPID 1 stars
4/25/03 Andrew Carden The Screenplay Is A Mess, but The Cast Is Sensastional. McGinley Is Oscar-Worthy. 4 stars
4/25/03 Joe This Makes The Friday The 13th Series Look Like Shakesphere 1 stars
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  25-Apr-2003 (R)



Directed by
  James Mangold

Written by
  Michael Cooney

  John Cusack
  Ray Liotta
  Amanda Peet
  John C. McGinley
  Alfred Molina
  Clea DuVall
  Jake Busey

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