Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Identity (2003)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince) is a death row inmate, and he’s twenty-four hours away from his execution. But Malcolm’s psychiatrist, Dr. Malick (Alfred Molina) tries to convince Judge Taylor (Holmes Osborne) to change his ruling, allowing Malcolm to live out the rest of his days in a psychiatric hospital under his care. Dr. Malick uses Malcolm’s journals during an emergency meeting at a courthouse in a last-ditch effort to save Malcolm’s life, but Dr. Malick’s demonstration during Malcolm’s  face to face meeting with Judge Taylor takes an unexpected turn, when Malcolm is forced to confront his worst fears.

Meanwhile, during a heavy rainstorm in Nevada, a limo driver/ex-police officer driver named Ed (John Cusack) is looking for a safe path on the slippery roads ahead. In the backseat, Ed’s client, Caroline Suzanne (Rebecca De Mornay), a disgruntled TV star from the 80’s, orders Ed to look for a replacement battery for her cellphone. Ed takes his eyes off the road for a split second, and he accidentally hits Alice York (Lelia Kenzle). Alice’s young son, Timmy York (Bret Loehr) is horrified at the sight of his wounded mother, but Ed agrees to help Alice, Timmy, and Timmy’s stepfather, George (John C. McGinely) with a ride to the nearest motel.

At the motel, Ed, Caroline, Alice, Timmy, and George meet the owner and manager, Larry (John Hawkes). Alice needs medical attention, but the roads are flooded, the phone lines are down, and cell phones are useless without reception. Eventually, more travelers seek shelter inside the motel. The newlyweds, Ginny (Clea DuVall) and Lou (William Lee Scott) are trying to work out problems in their rocky relationship; a cop named Rhodes (Ray Liotta) is escorting his prisoner, Robert (Jake Busey) to another prison; and Paris (Amanda Peet), a prostitute,  is forced into the motel after an unexpected breakdown.

Alice is bleeding to death, and the group is forced to deal with another problem during the rainstorm: an unknown killer is stalking everyone in the motel. The killer quietly eliminates everyone in the motel, and escape is not an option. Ed, Rhodes, and others struggle to solve the mystery behind the killer and his motivations before sunrise, but a series of shocking revelations complicate the investigation……….

If I had to pick one person for the best performance, I would give the nod to John Cusack. Cusack is a solid leading man as Ed. His performance isn’t mind-blowing, but Cusack does enough to justify an increased amount of focus and screen time. Amanda Peet is serviceable as Paris, and you’ll see Peet’s best scenes during her rivalry with Larry. Larry detests prostitutes, and you can feel the disdain between these two during a series of dueling verbal jabs. Ray Liotta? He’s not bad, but his performance as Rhodes is passable at best, and that’s it.

Rebecca De Mornay had the chance to steal the show, as the snobbish and pompous TV star with en ego, but her screen time is cut short here. William Lee Scott is the typical overbearing boyfriend, who openly flirts with Paris, and of course, he verbally abuses Ginny. Clea DuVall is a panicky and frightened mess, as Ginny. Jake Busey is decent enough as the creepy convicted killer with a dark side, and John C. McGinely is believable, as the nerdy and soft spoken stepfather, who’s trying to do the right thing.

Who’s the killer? Is it Rhodes? Larry? Robert? Well, the answer to all three is a big no. On top of that, you can omit EVERYONE from the motel. Why? Because they’re not real. Remember Malcolm Rivers? Malcolm suffers from a severe case of dissociative identity disorder. Malcolm’s mind is cluttered with ten different personalities, and each person at the motel represents one of Malcolm’s personalities. One of the personalities took control of Malcolm’s body, and this personality forced Malcolm to commit the murders. The motel, the ten strangers, the rainstorm, the floods. It’s all fake, and Malcolm is playing out one of Dr. Malick’s elaborate scenarios in his mind, because Malcolm must “eliminate” the murderous personality to avoid his execution.

For a moment, Malcolm snaps out of the motel scenario as Ed, but Dr. Malick pushes Malcolm to return to the scenario in his mind (as Ed) to finish what he started, and eliminate the killer. Rhodes, Paris, and Ed are the sole survivors after Rhodes (an escaped convict, who posed as a cop for a decoy, and Robert was his prison buddy) murders Larry. Ed and Rhodes kill each other in a shoot out, so Paris is the sole survivor. A calm Malcolm finishes the scenario in Judge Taylor’s presence, so Judge Taylor agrees to Dr. Malick’s terms: Malcolm will live out the rest of his life in a mental hospital under Malick’s supervision and care.   

At dawn (we‘re jumping into the motel scenario again), Paris uses Larry’s truck to drive to her hometown of Frostproof, Florida to start over.  One day, Paris is out in the garden, and she finds a motel room key with the number one on the front. Long story short, the killer placed room keys from the motel on the dead bodies of his victims as a calling card.

Anyway, Paris picks up the key with this terrified look on her face……and Timmy is standing in front of her. Yep. Timmy was the murderous personality in Malcolm’s mind, but Timmy survived the massacre at the motel. Timmy eliminates (or murders) Paris, so Timmy takes full control of Malcolm’s body. Ed and Paris are gone, so Malcolm can’t rely on sensible reasoning or logic anymore. In the van with Dr. Malick and a guard, Malcolm (under Timmy’s influence) uses his handcuffs to strangle Dr. Malick. The driver panics, and the van skids into the desert to end the movie.

Identity packs a powerful punch with a series of genuinely shocking twists at the end. Malcolm living in a dream world, and everyone at the motel being an imaginary person in Malcolm's mind? If you predicted all of that with no bumps in the road, then I need to borrow your crystal ball for a weekend.

I know I say this a lot, but you REALLY have to strap yourself into suspension of disbelief mode for Identity. Maybe I’m the only, who feels this way, but when it comes to reactions, you’ll hate the twists at the end, because you’re in the “too far-fetched” crowd. Or, you’re jaw will hit the floor, when Identity reveals the killer.

Hindsight (probably my second or third watch for Identity. First time in a LONG time, but still) kills a lot of the shock value for me, but Identity earned a spot on my list of favorites. It’s an eerie and suspenseful mystery/thriller, featuring a series of genuinely shocking twists during the jaw-dropping finale, and you‘ll see the gruesome aftermath of unfortunate victims (i.e. Robert‘s mangled corpse with a baseball bat stuck in his throat…yikes).

Identity does a wonderful job of playing mind games with the audience during the constant finger-pointing in a deadly whodunit game of cat and mouse. The desolate motel in a fierce rainstorm is a perfect setting for the main characters, because it’s an isolated deathtrap, and this setting enhances feelings of desperation and claustrophobia. In the end, Identity is a must-see film, easily. As I said before, when it comes to the twists at the end, it’s an even split for which side of the fence you’ll be on. You’ll hate or love the reasons behind the revelations for the killer, but one thing’s for sure, it’s impossible to resist the urge to decipher, question, and analyze Identity’s memorable and thought-provoking finale.

Rating: 8/10

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