Identity

Identity

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Aficionados of teenage slasher flicks enjoy nothing more than a bunch of Grade C character actors and girls with breasts being bludgeoned to death while trapped in a spooky house. It's called The Ten Little Coloured Persons syndrome.

Identity is much cleverer than that, despite following the formula to a certain extent. Somewhere in the American West, or North, or off a Bruce Springsteen album cover, the rain is lashing down and the roads are blocked by floods and the phone's kaput - fill in the gaps, you know the scene, you've been there.

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At a clapped out motel, where The Addams Family might spend vacations, an actress, a chauffeur, a pair of argumentative newlyweds, a callgirl and a married couple with a weird child shelter from the storm. In another place, a serial killer is being transported from Death Row, the night before he is due to be executed, for one final face-to-face with the state governor, where his attorney and a psychiatrist will plead insanity. At the motel, a cop turns up with his violent prisoner. The connection is made. You don't have to ask whether the manacled man in orange overalls is a) mad, or b) about to escape and kill everyone.

Writer Michael Cooney and director James Mangold use the audience's acceptance of stereotypes to their advantage. Of course, it is so well dressed as to appear original, even quirky - the chauffeur is an ex-cop and the cop is an ex-something else, for example - and planted cliches disguise the true purpose of what is going on.

The audacity of the plot is startling. Just when you think you are ahead of it, another surprise lies in store. To say that nothing is as it seems is like saying pigs can't fly. There comes a point when you wonder whether the dead are indeed dead, or what day it is.

The actors are servants of the story. They perform as an ensemble with admirable generosity. The true stars are the writer and director. What they achieve is a rare thing in this follow-the-dots culture of filmmaking. They treat the genre with respect, do not cheat and allow intelligence to play a positive role in the construction of a fascinating psychological thriller.

Reviewed on: 11 Jun 2003
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Identity packshot
A bunch of strangers who seek refuge in a run-down motel find themselves the target of a killer.
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Read more Identity reviews:

Tony Sullivan ***1/2
Jennie Kermode *

Director: James Mangold

Writer: Michael Cooney

Starring: John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina, John Hawkes, Clea DuVall, Rebecca DeMornay, John C McGinley, William Lee Scott, Jake Busey, Pruitt Taylor Vince

Year: 2003

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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