Identity (2003)


Ebert: San Francisco Examiner: TV Guide:1/2

Warning, minor plot points revealed!

There was a movie...  And I snuck into it after I watched X-Men 2 for the second time...  And in the movie there were these people that got stuck at a creepy old motel on a rainy night... And then people started dying.  

If this sounds familiar, it's because you probably saw the John Cusack narrated preview for this film before every movie you've watched in the last 3-6 months and for the last few weeks on every TV station.  I don't think I can remember a recent movie that was so heavily promoted.  I was actually sick and tired of this movie before I even watched it.  I was so fed up with it from the commercials and previews that I swore I would never go see it.  But as I said, it just happened to be starting as X2 was ending so I walked in and decided that watching it for free was a fair trade off for media blitz that I had endured.

I don't want to spoil any surprises for people who may rent the film when it comes out on DVD so here's a brief plot summary.  10 guests end up at a creepy desert motel during a storm.  One by one they fall victim to savage brutal gory murder.  Meanwhile, in what is seemingly another movie, a psychiatrist arranges for a convicted killer a last minute appeal to his death sentence in front of the judge who sentenced him.  Eventually these two story's will intersect and the secrets of Identity will be revealed.  

I love movies with twist endings.  I don't usually try to figure out the twist before it happens and I think I enjoy the film more because of this.  For example I did not know that Verbal Kint was Keyser Soze the first time I watched The Usual Suspects.  The revelation at the end was a big surprise and I will forever love that film for it's super-cool satisfying twist ending.  Identity wants very much, to capture that twisty thrill and take it to the next level.  Like Suspects, I didn't get the twist until it was explained at the end, when in quick flashback, the clues are shown a second time.  Perhaps you will be more clever and figure it out in advance, but I doubt it.  The twist here is a stretch and then in an attempt to up the ante the twist twists in on itself again.  In fact just when you thought you could accept the last twist, it twists again and then again.  Eventually this just becomes irritating.  It's like a movie that can't make up it's mind about how it wants to end.  

All the actors are cool and do a fine job with their roles.  John Cusack is able to guide the ensemble with a commanding lead character who seems most at ease with the situation that s rapidly spinning out of control.  Other great performances come from Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina, Rebecca DeMornay, John C. McGinley, and Jake Busey.  DeMornay did such a great job that I didn't even recognize her.  In fact I didn't even realize it was her until I wrote this review!

I don't want my three star rating to deter people from watching this movie.  It's one of those films that I kind of enjoyed watching once, and since my wife Holly didn't see it I'll probably rent it and watch it again to see if she can guess the ending, but I didn't love it.  I think it tries way too hard at the end to distinguish itself as the movie with the most twisty false endings but ends up just being annoying.