out of 4
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Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4
Here's the set-up for this psychological thriller: ten strangers are
trapped in the midst of a torrential rainstorm in a remote desert motel only to
be murdered one-by-one. Whodunit?
There's a righteous, enterprising limo driver (John Cusack) who claims
to have once been with the LAPD. He's chauffeuring a self-absorbed,
temperamental aging actress (Rebecca DeMornay) when they run into a stranded
family (Leila Kenzle, Bret Loehr, John C. McGinley). There's a nervous,
incompetent corrections officer (Ray Liotta) who's transporting a convicted
killer (Jake Busey), who's intent on escape. There's the seedy, skittish motel
manager (John Hawkes) who's keeping secrets. There are the bickering newlyweds
(Clea DuVall, William Lee Scott). There's a tough call-girl (Amanda Peet),
heading from Las Vegas to an orange grove in Florida. And the motel itself is
situated on a sacred Indian burial ground.
Screenwriter Michael Cooney ("Jack Frost") and director James Mangold
("Kate & Leopold") make it clear that each clich‚ character is not exactly who
he or she seems nor, in fact, is the set-up. But that's about all I can tell you
because, like "Memento" and "The Sixth Sense," the unusual concept is an
integral part of the intense puzzle in which the rain pelts the windows, the
wind blows, the doors creak and a gruesome menace lurks behind every shadow,
particularly in the laundromat. Of course there's the final - "Ah, ha!" moment -
when you realize what's going on, but it takes a long time to get there and
frustration can be an unwelcome passenger on this particular journey. On the
Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Identity" is a cleverly creepy, enigmatic 6 -
but only if you're not squeamish and into mind-teasing avant-garde film-making.
Copyright © 2003 Susan Granger
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