Splash, Flash, and Crash
Torrential rain, booming thunder, and explosive lightning form the dark-and-stormy-night backdrop for Identity, a thriller starring Jack Cusack as a man trying to make sense of the horrible things happening around him. I know how frustrated his character must have felt. After seeing this film, I’m still not sure what was happening most of the time either – and I didn’t doze off once. Honest.
Who could be killing the guests at a little out-of-the-way motel during this terrible storm? None of these people want to be there; they’re all seeking refuge until things clear up enough to leave. Is one of them a murderer? Almost everyone looked suspicious to me. The limo driver (Cusack) suffers from mysterious headaches and claims he used to be a cop. He’s now a driver for a faded actress (Rebecca De Mornay) who shows no compassion for others. The cop (Ray Liotta) appears a bit too excitable and prone to violence. The prostitute (Amanda Peet) worries about a stash of money in her room. And what about that young married couple (Clea DuVall and William Lee Scott) who yell at each other at the top of their lungs? And the weird husband (John C. McGinley) of an injured mother (Leila Kenzle) whose young son (Bret Loehr) witnessed her bloody accident? Or the sleazy motel manager (John Hawkes) and the cop’s sneering prisoner (Jake Busey)? Those last two dudes scared me most of all – especially the motel guy with his deadly baseball bat.
Identity's production values and acting are first-rate. The tumultuous storm seemed very real to me – I wanted to reach for my umbrella more than once. Cusack (Max) improves with every movie (and gets better looking, too). He’s totally convincing as a person who worries about others and tries to help them. Although I prefer Peet in comedies like The Whole Nine Yards, Identity proves she’s developing some excellent dramatic chops, and Liotta (Narc) simply takes over the screen in all his scenes. As for McGinley (from TV’s "Scrubs"), he’s quite the chameleon – terrific in both comedy and drama. What’s next for this talented actor? I’d like to see him in a musical (maybe the upcoming Guys and Dolls).
Meanwhile, back to Identity. As gory deaths begin to mount up, the list of suspects dwindles. And, although the first part of this thriller overflows with delicious suspense and creepy atmosphere, the film’s plot soon becomes one of its helpless victims. Even a concerned psychiatrist (Alfred Molina) has trouble sorting everything out.
Yes, you guessed it. Identity is another nothing-is-what-it-seems flick. I realize such a gimmick worked well in movies like Basic and Fight Club, but it’s so farfetched here I couldn’t suspend disbelief – at least in my version of what was going on. However, as I mentioned before, I’m still confused. To quote a line from that classic horror thriller The Fly, "Help me."
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated "R" for strong violence and language.)