The slasher genre returns, but with a big twist: the stupid, hormone-driven teenagers have been replaced by a decent star-studded cast. John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Ray Liotta, John Hawkes, John C. McGinley, Clea DuVall, Jake Busey, Rebecca De Mornay and Alfred Molina star in Identity, an intriguing if not a little over-the-top horror thriller.
Cusack, who is pretty consistent in just about every movie he stars in, has the lead as a limo driver who is transporting an actress (De Mornay) back to Los Angeles. However, in the midst of a gigantic rain storm, he gets into an accident, nearly killing a woman. He and many other strangers all end up at an old hotel with no place to go; the roads have been washed out. Included amongst the strangers are a police officer (Liotta) and a homicidal prisoner (Busey, who played one hell of a killer in The Frighteners).
It isn't long before the dying woman becomes the least of their worries. The prisoner escapes, one of the hotel residents ends up missing a head, and there are other underlying secrets that are beginning to surface. One by one the strangers begin to die, and the survivors start to suspect that their is a greater force at work here...
Identity plays out much like the Agatha Christie mystery Ten Little Indians, where one by one the characters begin to die off. This isn't coincidence; one of the characters cites the film. However, Identity is much different; it is clear that there is a supernatural presence involved, there is a little more focus on suspense and blood, and the last twenty minutes are a complete, 180-degree turnaround.
Identity has good acting, a good script, and what turns out to be a very interesting storyline. The first two-thirds of the movie are fairly suspenseful and mysterious, focusing more on the thriller aspect than on the horror side (meaning there aren't many intricate death scenes). The prominence of the cast makes it hard to figure out who will be the next to go.
However, it is the final third of the movie that makes or breaks it, depending on your preference. My roommate loved it; I appreciated it, but wasn't overly thrilled. Some critics have compared Identity to The Sixth Sense, which I think is both unfair to Identity and somewhat of an insult to The Sixth Sense. Identity definitely does have a huge twist ending, but it isn't nearly as powerful as M. Night Shylaman's killer ending that blew millions of people away a couple of years ago. In fact, I thought that Identity's ending was a little over-the-top; while I do appreciate the screenwriter's cleverness, I don't necessarily think it was the best course of action.
No pun intended (well, maybe not), but Identity suffers from an identity crisis. On the one hand, it has this compelling and intriguing supernatural thriller that has great potential, and on the other hand, it is trying to do something deeper and more meaningful. Both ideas are good, but they don't necessarily work together.
The Sixth Sense's ending worked because the rest of the movie really didn't have a focused plot. When the ending came, it allowed everything to click into place.
In Identity, the movie has a well-established plot that is pretty interesting. When the ending (meaning the last twenty minutes) arrives and flips everything upside down, I was a little disappointed because I was really getting involved. Once the big twist is revealed, the suspense goes right out the window, and that's a problem.
Identity is a good movie that definitely could throw audiences for a loop. I appreciate what the writer was trying to do, but I would have enjoyed it more had it remained more formulaic. Nevertheless, it is an ending that some will love and some won't; you have to see it for yourself. It's still worth the money.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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