Identity follows the Agatha Christie (or was it Tobe Hooper?) model of mysteries, where a group of characters are stranded in an isolated location and get knocked off in creatively gruesome ways until only the hero and the killer remain. The film’s location is a Nevada motel on a stormy night, and the characters include an ex-Las Vegas prostitute (played by Amanda Peet), an aging actress (Rebecca De Mornay), two men involved in a prison transfer (Ray Liotta and Jake Busey), and a cop-turned-limo-driver who qualifies as the hero by default (and on the strength of John Cusack’s quietly commanding performance).
The movie was written by Michael Cooney, best-known for penning and directing the hilariously awful Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, and it was directed by James Mangold, who began his career with the richly melancholy Heavy and has followed with intermittently inspired work on the thudders Cop Land, Girl, Interrupted and Kate & Leopold. Mangold’s direction of Identity is fine; early on, he plays with disjointed chronology in eye-grabbing ways, and he keeps the film taut, watchable and a little spooky throughout, even if he relies too much on sudden shocks.
Anyway, most folks who see Identity won’t be talking about the solid thriller elements, but about the major plot twist that comes a little more than an hour into the action. It’s one of those “everything you is know is wrong” switcheroos that will have some cackling with glee, some pondering the deeper implications, and some setting their lips on “boo.”
Without giving too much away, the argument against the twist would be that it retroactively defuses tension, making the characters’ grisly demises relatively meaningless. My argument for the twist would be the same. Identity is little more than a jump-at-shadows exercise, which makes attempts at finding meaning fairly irrelevant. It’s also, to an extent, about the murderous fantasies of shallow creative minds, being the sort of story that could’ve been written by a TV-addicted preadolescent latchkey kid.
Granted, reading Identity as the filmmakers’ self-criticism would be more supportable if the people in the story were richer than “action cop” or “sex goddess” fantasy objects. But given the characters’ thinness, it’s entirely appropriate that their inevitable dispatch provokes little emotional response. After all, what little boys build, they also destroy. Your enjoyment of Identity will hinge on how much you like to see toys get strewn.
So long Don. Your creative energy and encouragement were inspirational to me.
It was so great being one of those kids in Dayton.
I miss Iodine.
^ It's nice to see an official acknowledgement by management. Kristen Mcarther Miles (the girl…
How ironic that "Vandy radio" gets resurrected as a fictional station?! I was just glad…
Wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.