Retro Review: Identity

Written: May 5, 2003

Some have said that this is a departure from the normal thriller. It has been said that formula thrillers and mysteries are dead.

Or those audiences don’t want to see a chilling and thrilling whodunit in the classic sense. I say what happened to classic mystery in the spirit of Hitchcock or Agatha Christie?

Have we as audiences become so spoiled with thrillers that we need a “Sixth Sense” style shock ending to be satisfied?

During the new thriller “Identity”, I posed these questions upon its conclusion.

The thriller stars John Cusack as a reluctant hero, who finds himself faced with a live changing confrontation.

Cusack plays Ed, a limo-driver with a shadowy past who is pulled into shady rundown motel during a torrential rainstorm.

Ed has been brought to the motel when his limo carrying famous movie-star Caroline Susanne (Rebecca DeMornay) is involved in a traffic accident.

At the motel, Ed comes in contact with Paris (Amanda Peet), a call-girl, Rhodes (Ray Liotta), a cop, and other motel patrons. When one of the patrons is brutally murdered, Ed and Rhodes find themselves forced to find out the identity of the murderer among them.

“Identity” starts off brilliantly in the spirit of Hitchcock as the strangers are flung together. The quick cuts and brilliant use of flashback make “Identity” sizzle. You get set for an amazing whodunit as each motel patron’s identity is slowly revealed. I liked how the director left us guessing to who was next.

I so wanted to be enthralled and revel in a good intelligent mystery and “Identity” had all the elements. It had all the right characters, perfect setting and a brilliant direction and style.

The sad part is that even with the perfect elements the film sold out to the latest trend. It went for the “Sixth Sense” style twist. Sure the twist is clever and interesting but only for about 2 minutes. I guessed the twist 5 or 6 minutes before any of the characters clued in. I am not sure if they all ever clued in.

The twist angered me and by the time the credits rolled all I wanted to do was scream what could have been.

The acting by the films leads was dynamite. I especially loved John Cusack’s turn as a leading man. I want to see more of him as a detective or stalwart hero. Cusack seems to get better with age. I also liked the over the top performance of Rebecca DeMornay who looks a lot like Shania Twain in her on screen persona. Liotta is poignant as ever. Peet is fragile and doing her best to expand her repertoire.

One performance that did make me smile was the reserved performance of John C McGinley. He has never been so far away from what audiences have come to expect from the actor. I liked seeing him in the role of the fractured father who is struggling to keep his family together. It’s a breakthrough and one I won’t forget from this actor.

“Identity” frustrated me and made me wish for a good old-fashioned whodunit. There is a reason stories of that nature have fascinated minds for centuries. I think they can make a comeback if the right story were to come along. Or have we been so spoiled that they are cursed? You decide.

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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