Identity (2003) starring John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, John Hawkes, Clea DuVall, John C. McGinley, William Lee Scott, Jake Busey directed by James Mangold Movie Review

Identity (2003)   4/54/54/54/54/5

John Cusack as Ed in Identity (2003)

Murder He Thought

Intelligent horror, it's a term you don't often hear for the simple fact that most horror movies tend to reside on the side of being dumb. "Identity" is different because here we have a clever storyline which combines stories and layers to create a mystery, spiced up by characters and murder. Some will just say it is a thriller but with decapitated heads and a chilling sense that another gruesome death is never far away "Identity" deserves to be known as a horror as well as a thriller.

It's a stormy night with roads flooding and a chain of events lead a group of unrelated people to show up at an isolated motel somewhere in Nevada. But something strange is going on as these guests are dying and dying in a set order forcing the survivors to try and work out what is going on before their number comes up next. At the same time psychiatrist Dr. Malick (Alfred Molina) is giving evidence at an eleventh hour hearing for death row inmate Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince) as he tries to get a stay of execution.

Amanda Peet as Paris in Identity (2003)

To describe "Identity" as playful seems wrong because this is a movie which is mysterious, thrilling and also gruesome but for the first 20 minutes it is almost playful. After an encounter with Dr. Malick we head to the isolated motel and see this nervous man fly in carrying a blooded women, how did she end up hurt, well they had a puncture, a puncture caused by a metal stiletto which earlier on in the day flew out the back of a car belonging to Paris. Yes we have a chain of events and this chain of events whilst often featuring a shocking moment including a woman being run down almost playfully links together especially as we meet the various people who end up at the motel.

But then we switch to the judge's chambers, late at night and a group of lawyers are there because there is new evidence to stop the execution in 24 hours of murderer Malcolm Rivers. We hear a bit about the man who murdered 6 residents of an apartment as well as the judge's lack of sympathy for any new evidence.

And then we switch back to the motel and the fun starts, or at least the murders as former policeman and now a chauffeur Ed discovers the head of an actress in a tumble dryer. What follows on from there are more murders, mad searches for people and the ominous situation that the actress had key to room 10 on her, the next victim had room 9 and so on. It is both gruesome and shocking as we see dead bodies and in some cases witness the deaths but it is also very mysterious because who is doing this. And more importantly what is the link with the judge's chambers and the Malcolm Rivers case.

The thing about "Identity" is everything is thought out, from who and how they die to the way the end up linking which leads us to understand what is going on, piece by piece getting a clearer picture of what the connections are. Now I won't say what the connection is but where as in some thrillers this would have seem convoluted here thanks to good writing and directing it is believable. In fact the entire movie, be it a character or a death scene is so well written and directed that even something which is almost comical ends up not cheapening the end product.

And completing this movie is a great cast, you may not know some of the actor's names but you will recognize their faces and no one, even those in small parts put in a bad performance. But it is John Cusack and Ray Liotta who are the stars and they work so well because ironically they are playing to type, Liotta delivering this element of evil as Rhodes whilst Cusack is the nice guy who wants to help.

What this all boils down to is that "Identity" is a pleasant surprise because it is horror with intelligence which draws you in to what is going on and gets you trying to work out what connects it all together whilst shocking you with some nice horror scenes.