Identity

A Film Review By Jason L. King and The Mike

Rating:Rated R for violence, Gore,language and some drug use. 
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet 
Directed By: James Mangold 

Final Grades: 
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Jason’s Review:

The new thriller Identity will hit the big screen this weekend, but the big question (after what exactly is it) is if it is worth the ticket price?

Identity is the story of a group of people who end up trapped in a hotel one stormy night. The storm keeps them trapped there, because both ahead of them and behind them is nothing more than washed out road. But when the nightly tenants start dying it becomes a thrill ride until the very end. Who or what is killing everyone? Why are they doing it? Is there a connection?

In a nutshell that’s all I can really say about the flick without giving it away. The flick is entertaining for a thriller flick, gives you enough cheap horror pops, and all in all keeps you in suspense the entire way through. But in the end the answer is right in front of you the whole time. With some careful thought right during the opening credits, you can piece together what the story is really about right from the get go. And if you don’t pick it up right away, the symbolism and attributes of certain characters should be a dead give away to the killer. If they had tried any harder it they would have come right out and told you the answer. In the end, what I am trying to say is it is predictable even with the strange twist in it.

The acting on the other hand wasn’t what I expected. This flick suffered from what I called the “Ocean’s 11” complex, and the end result was a real downer. They had too many headlining stars and not enough depth to any of the characters. With the shared screen time and the battling “headliners” it made it hard to connect with any of the characters at all. The flick didn’t really give them a chance to show off their abilities, which is sad in a flick with the ever talented John Cusack and Ray Liotta. The idea of lots of big names worked in Oceans 11 and just kind of fizzled in this flick. The stars make the movie what it is, without the headliners the film would have dwindled into a huge pile of rubbish, but in the end the actors just didn’t make it up to par with their usual performance levels.

In the end though Identity keeps pace with the “thriller” genre that has been developed over the years. It does what it is supposed to do, which is entertain you. Sadly enough though it doesn’t really have any replay value. After once or twice the film has lost its thrills, and you are left with an overall mediocre flick. The Mike compared the film to “Session 9” another psychological thriller from a few years back. I’m going to agree with him on that one. Identity is the Hollywood fluff version of that little independent flick that no one knows of. Identity is average…It’s worth maybe a view once, but in the end don’t expect anything outstanding, the flick just has nothing of that caliber to offer…

Final Grade: C+


The Mikes Review:

Identity is a film that comes from a script that seems content to take every risk it can to start a new chapter in the slasher genre. It’s a script so twisted that it could have easily been written by Charlie (or Donald) Kaufman (instead we get Michael Cooney, whose previous works were the horrible Jack Frost films), and it’s a script that knows exactly what it wants to accomplish in the end. Is it a brilliant script? No, It’s a script that would be written for a direct to video horror film with a bad cast. But it’s close enough to good that all it needed was a little effort in casting and directing to make an entertaining film. Enter director James Mangold (Cop Land; Girl, Interrupted) and a perfect cast that includes two of the best actors of our time, John Cusack and Ray Liotta.

From the beginning, Identity established its setting and characters and had me hooked. 11 strangers are trapped in a motel in the middle of nowhere, and suddenly people start dying. One of them is a killer…we think. And that’s not the weirdest part. Meanwhile, we meet a psychiatrist (Alfred Molina, who will co-star as the villainous Doctor Octopus in the next Spider-Man film) who’s trying to get a killer off of death row. What do these two stories have in common? I can’t tell you that here!

Identity picks up right at the beginning, and never lets you down. The jumps from place to place and scene to scene keep moving at a brisk and entertaining pace throughout. Twists and deaths come in all shapes and forms, and usually catch us at the moment we least expect them. Mangold’s sets are perfect in every occasion, and the exterior shots in the rain and storm are perfectly surreal.

The cast is not as much of a strong point for this film as I expected it to be, but I always expect the world from Cusack and Liotta. Despite the slight personal let down, it’s still safe to say that the wonderful cast benefits the film greatly. Cusack is his wonderful self, despite not having the sharpest dialogue to use like he does in most of his comedies. Liotta is also good, though his performance left me craving a viewing of his wonderful performance in Mangold’s Cop Land. The supports are good, especially John C. McGinley (One of the Bobs in Office Space) as a concerned & nervous husband and John Hawkes (From Dusk ‘Till Dawn) as the motel manager. There is a little want for a better actress than Amanda Peet in the female lead, and Jake Busey is annoying as usual (Hey Gary, why don’t you take Jake out back and teach him to be cool or kick his sorry ass!) in his small role.

The twists in the final reel will leave a lot of viewers scratching their heads, and to an extent they may feel forced. But we’d been set up perfectly the whole movie, we just needed to keep our eyes open. Many also may criticize the frantic status with which a lot of the characters speak, but I’d stutter and freak if I were trapped with a killer on the loose too! These details may be too much for the viewer who looks down upon the films they watch as lower entities, but to the wide-eyed and ready viewers they’re welcome additions.

I realized through imagining the film with low budget actors that it left a taste like the type of direct-to video fodder we’ve seen far too often. It reminded me a lot of another horror film, Session 9, which came from a similar script and never made a splash from the independent market. Identity is only making it to the mainstream because of it’s cast, the script would have never gotten through Hollywood without them.

It took a lot of guts for whomever green-lit this script to do so, and the results are an entertaining, yet not altogether amazing product. Identity is a solid psychological thriller, and it’s one that is worth checking out as long as you can free your mind and think about it without predetermined doubts. At the worst it’s a popcorn flick that will make you think, a rarity in Hollywood these days. Check it out. The Mike’s Grade: B 

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