Director: James Mangold
Year of release: 2003
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 86-90 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only as far as I know.
Tagline: "The secret lies within..."
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Starring some high profile actors Identity is only loosely a slasher and could be said to be more of a thriller than anything else. As some of the other slasher sites have covered it however I thought I would do so myself.
On the night before his execution, convicted murderer Malcolm Rivers finds his case reopened after some new evidence turns up which could potentially prove he is deeply troubled mentally. If proven the decision would mean he would avoid death on the grounds of insanity and instead be relocated to a mental institution.
As the case is argued by doctors and legal personal a vicious storm meanwhile is raging outside resulting in floods and other damage. Caught in the deluge are among others a policeman, a limo driver and a prostitute. With the roads flooded and the phones seemingly out of service in the chaos of the storm those stranded seek refuge at a lonely motel. Far from providing safe haven however this establishment soon becomes the home of sinister goings on as one those seeking sanctuary turns up murdered. Panic soon begins to set in among the remaining guests as more bodies begin to pile up alongside motel room keys which hint at some sort of countdown.
Playing out alongside the trouble at the motel is the continuation of the Malcolm Rivers case. Will this situation prove to have some bearing on the murders occurring out in the storm?
Good points: *As stated Identity is spearheaded by two big name actors they being John Cusack and Ray Liotta both of whom have leading roles. Even if this does lean more towards psychological thriller than slasher it’s still interesting and something of a novelty to see two established faces in the type of situations we are more used to seeing being carried out by unknowns. Both do a good job as well.
*The motel is an effective setting which stirs up memories of the Psycho franchise to some extent. It’s quite creepy in itself but is also assisted massively by the torrential rain which helps create a claustrophobic atmosphere. The bad storm is also the reason for no one being able to get in or out of the immediate area surrounding the motel which helps move it more towards the slasher realm with this being one of the tropes of the genre.
*Very mild spoiler: There is a double twist at the end that although not to my taste is quite clever. It reminds me a bit of the ending of Frayed (though this came out first) which is another film that hits you with a double twist near the end. As with that film you may see the first twist coming but you quite possibly won’t predict both. Though I personally don’t much care for the ending here it brings things up a notch from a cerebral standpoint for those that like things perhaps a bit more high-brow. The twists may add some replay value to the film as well and make for an interesting second viewing if trying to spot clues. It’s a double edged sword though and as such I’ll come back to this later.
*One small thing I did appreciate regarding the story was the use of the room keys used in conjunction with the murders to form a countdown. It was a neat concept that helped tie the deaths to the setting of the motel which is important in light of what we learn at the end.
Bad Points: *The deaths sadly aren’t up to much and with the exception of a few shootings towards the end all occur off camera. Though there is a brief scene featuring a severed head there isn’t really much gore either to go along with the bodies once discovered.
*Very mild spoiler: Though already mentioned above I’m going to mention the twist ending again here this time as a negative which is what it ultimately was for me. It’s going to come down to personal taste of course as does everything I mention in my reviews to some extent but the kind of ending we have here left me feeling a bit cheated. Smart though it is for me it does cheapen what had occurred up to the point of the big reveal.
*I thought it was really unrealistic and overly dramatic that the Malcolm Rivers case was reopened the very night before he was due to be executed. In reality by this point it would probably be far too late to re-examine the case unless maybe something came to light which proved the prisoner was completely innocent which wasn’t the situation here with Malcolm.
*Though only a very small gripe the presence of Cusack and Liotta though both good additions do due to their name value over shadow the prostitute final girl character a bit. Though perhaps too expensive to do so it would arguably have been more effective if they had of managed to procure a more well known female actress to play her as well.
Verdict: This film is a strange one and in some ways tough for me to review in the normal way with it being a mix of drama, mystery, horror and thriller but with some of the familiar slasher trappings at its core. Due to it being a hybrid of genres it wasn’t entirely my bag so to speak and probably unfairly looses points with me because of that.
There were some things I liked such as the storm battered and rain swept motel setting and both Cusack and Liotta were very watchable.
On the other hand the very disappointing kills and action scenes certainly didn’t help to endear it to me. With this being more of a cerebral piece however I suppose the deaths play second fiddle anyway coming in a distant second to the story. Though I can appreciate the effort that must have gone into the writing that in itself turned out to be a negative for me also and I found it to be one of those films that is a bit too clever for its own good. In the end the climax left me with a bit of a sour taste.
Though it is worth a watch, if you’re going into this hoping for a slasher type film you may be disappointed. Those not coming from this angle may be more able to enjoy it though for what it is which is more of a thriller first and foremost. Those who enjoy psychological films may find the ending much more to their taste as well.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
Note: Possibly the body count may be 1 instead of 0 as it could be said that Malcolm strangles Dr Malik at the end but I don’t think it was in anyway confirmed that Malik actually dies.