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Identity (2003)
Rated R

Starring: John Cusack, Ray Liotta, and Amanda Peet

Rating:
***1/2
out of
*****

It was a dark and stormy night. No, really. That's how Identity begins its tale of psychological horror.

A family of three are driving down a dark road during the aforementioned storm when their car suffers a blow out. As the father, played by John C. McGinley, changes the tire, his wife is struck by a limousine. The limo driver (John Cusack) is transporting a spoiled-rotten actress (a grizzled looking Rebecca DeMornay), but against her wishes, he stops and assists the couple and their young son. Because the roads are washed out from the storm, he takes the injured woman to a nearby motel. Through various seemingly interconnected storm-related events, a young married couple (William Lee Scott and Clea DuVall), a prostitute (Amanda Peet), a cop (Ray Liotta) and his prisoner (Jake Busey) also end up at the same motel. The motel manager (John Hawkes) seems a little stressed-out, but otherwise, it looks like everyone will have to put up with the inconvenience of spending the night at the motel. Until, one-by-one, the guests start getting murdered.

This would seem to be a fairly straightforward suspense film until you add in the intercut scenes of an ongoing, last-minute hearing regarding newly discovered evidence in a series of brutal murders. A psychiatrist (Alfred Molina) tries to explain what this new evidence could mean for the accused, who's scheduled to go to the electric chair in 24 hours. Somehow, the events at the motel and this hearing are connected. Though I won't say how, I will say that it's not what you might be thinking.

The strong point of the movie is the characterization of the lead roles. John Cusack is an incredibly resourceful limo driver and the film explains how that comes to be. Ray Liotta's cop seems unhinged, but that's the type of character Liotta excels at playing. Amanda Peet is a prostitute with a heart-of-gold, but certainly not in the Pretty Woman vein. McGinley's grieving father seems adept at reciting the methods for proper behavior in certain specific situations. Why?

While it won't win any awards for being a truly great film, Identity keeps you guessing and keeps you interested until the final act. For a popcorn-flick, that's all one can ask. Identity is perfect for a rental with your friends. Everyone will have their own idea about what's going on. Everyone will probably be wrong. And that's a good thing.

Trivia: Several endings were filmed in order to shroud the real conclusion in secrecy. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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