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Movie Review

A remote motel in the Nevada desert becomes a refuge for ten strangers when a violent rainstorm washes out the roads. They don't know it yet, but they share something else in common—a link that will cause an unseen killer to start eliminating them one by one. Ed is a decent ex-cop who now drives the limousine of whiny former TV star Caroline Suzanne. Paris is a hooker who dreams of starting fresh. Lou and Ginny are young newlyweds already embroiled in relational conflict. A visibly anxious obsessive-compulsive named George York comes unglued when his wife is hit by a car and he, along with his young son, must find help. Complicating matters further, officer Rhodes shows up with a convicted murderer in his custody. They each pick up a room key from Larry the desk clerk. Those keys (numbered 1 through 10) begin turning up in descending order alongside people's murdered remains, implying a mysterious countdown that the surviving guests must unravel if they don't want to be next.

positive elements: Not much. When Ed strikes a pedestrian with his limo, he rejects Caroline's suggestion that they leave the scene. Ed accepts responsibility without hesitation and tends to the victim's needs. Caroline is vilified for her rude arrogance and selfishness. A psychiatrist works tirelessly to help his patient avoid a death sentence.

spiritual content: A red herring suggests that the strange, otherworldly nature of the murders may have something to do with a burial ground called The Tribal Tombs. Paris picks up a book called Being and Nothingness, and Ed fatalistically refers to a suicidal woman as being "part of the doomed."

sexual content: Larry is vocally antagonistic toward Paris because of her prostitution, and calls her a slut. Lou gives her lustful glances, and Rhodes makes a subtle come-on, which Paris deflects with a crass remark. A flashback shows Paris on the job, singing happy birthday to a half-dressed client tied to bedposts S&M style. Lou and Ginny were married in response to Ginny's announcement that she was pregnant. In audiotaped interviews, a mass murderer talks about his prostitute mother.

violent content: There are physical threats, beatings and the destruction of property (Ed uses a crowbar to bash in a car window). Most of the killings aren't shown in tremendous detail, but the aftereffects are brutal and bloody. After a woman is attacked, her head is discovered in a clothes dryer. People are stabbed and shot to death, struck violently by speeding vehicles, blown up in explosions, strangled, suffocated and done in with a gardening claw. One man has a baseball bat rammed down his throat. A dead body falls out of a freezer. Deaths are replayed in a quick-cut montage when the film's final twist is revealed. Ed describes how he once watched a woman commit suicide. Two scenes show off gruesome crime scene photos.

crude or profane language: Like lightning strikes on a rainy night, harsh language touches down with frequency. Of greatest concern are the film's 14 s-words, 27 f-words and two-dozen abuses of the Lord's name (including a number of "g--d---"s and 10 exclamations of Christ's name).

drug and alcohol content: Paris smokes a cigarette. Ed takes prescription medication. Liquor makes a brief appearance.

other negative elements: Several characters practice deception. Paris steals from a client. Larry pilfers a dead woman's purse.

conclusion: Part slasher film and part Twilight Zone episode, Identity is a smartly constructed thriller full of twists and turns with a finale as chillingly bizarre as that of The Sixth Sense. This is psychological horror for audiences insulted by lazy movies—including today's self-referential screamers—mired in genre clichés. Identity earns style points for trying something different and keeping viewers off-balance with a wild payoff. But the overall impact would have been even stronger had it left more to the imagination (I couldn't help but wonder how Alfred Hitchcock or M. Night Shyamalan might have handled the material). It could have been scary and suspenseful without the downpour of violence, blood and raw language. As it is, Identity becomes just another John Doe horror flick destined to remain unknown in many homes because of its excesses.

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John Cusack as Ed; Ray Liotta as Rhodes; Amanda Peet as Paris; Alfred Molina as Doctor; Rebecca De Mornay as Caroline Suzanne; John C. McGinley as George York; Clea Du Vall as Ginny; John Hawkes as Larry; Pruitt Taylor Vince as Malcolm Rivers; Jake Busey as Robert Maine; William Lee Scott as Lou


James Mangold ( )


Columbia TriStar



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Bob Smithouser

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