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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Identity

Starring: John Cusack, Alfred Molina
Director: James Mangold
Rated: R
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: April 2003
Genre: Suspense

*Also starring: Amanda Peet, Ray Liotta, Rebecca DeMornay, Clea Duvall, John C. McGinley, Jake Busey, William Lee Scott, John Hawkes

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

Written by horror B-movie writer/director Michael Cooney (the JACK FROST series) and directed by James Mangold (KATE & LEOPOLD), IDENTITY is an efficient and effective thriller clearly inspired by "Ten Little Indians," Agatha Christie's classic mystery novel. The first act, which features some dramatic car accidents, is the only truly scary part. If you've seen other horror pictures, you'll probably find the rest of the movie too familiar to make you jump. But the first part is a palpably frightening warning of the real-life hazards of not paying proper attention when you're on the road, especially in bad weather.

The story is set during a dark and stormy night. Are there any other nights in these types of shows? As a torrential downpour closes all of the roads and as the thunder and lightning have a strobe light effect on the characters, ten people, most of them strangers to each other, converge on a cheap motel in the middle of nowhere in Nevada. For thirty dollars a night, they obtain the privilege of being killed, one by one, with each getting a numbered room key afterwards to indicate their precise placement in the murder sequence.

The audience's canonical questions in such plots are: Who will be killed first? Who is doing it? And, most of all, why? It is in the answer to the last question that this story excels, rising slightly above other such horror pics.

At the fleabag motel are: A limo driver with some police work in his past (John Cusack) who is driving a washed-up actress (Rebecca De Mornay), a nervous cop (Ray Liotta) with a too-obviously guilty prisoner (Jake Busey) in tow, a "professional slut" (Amanda Peet) with a passion for orange trees, a nine-hour married couple (Clea DuVall and William Lee Scott), a jumpy motel manager (John Hawkes), and a wimpy and anal retentive husband (John C. McGinley) with a dying wife (Leila Kenzle) and a creepily quiet young stepson (Bret Loehr).

Place your bets now on the order of their death. Forget about guessing why they are being killed. You don't have a chance of figuring it out.

IDENTITY runs 1:35. It is rated R for "strong violence and language" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.

My son Jeffrey, age 14, gave it ***, saying that it was a very well made, edge-of-the-seat thriller. He liked all of the twists but said the movie was too scary to ever see again.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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