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Identity

USA 2003
directed by James Mangold
starring John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, John Hawkes, Rebecca DeMornay, Alfred Molina, Clea DuVall, John C.McGinley, William Lee Scott, Jacke Busey, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Leila Kenzle, Bret Loehr

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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A storm, flooded streets & a series of accidents - the worst of them caused by Ed (John Broderick), who ran over Alice (Leila Kenzle) by car - causes 10 people to seek refuge in Larry's (John Hawkes) rundown motel, & they are besides Ed & Alice Alice's husband (John C.McGinley) & son Timmy (Bret Loehr), the tv-actress (Rebecca DeMornay) Ed was driving, prostitute Paris (Amanda Peet) who has stolen a suitcase of money, newlyweds Ginny (Clea DuVall) & Lou (William Lee Scott), & of course cop Rhodes (Ray Liotta) & his psycho convict (Jake Busey). 

& wouldn't you know it, before long the convict escapes & the tv-star is murdered. Rhodes & Ed - an ex-cop himself - take it upon themselves to hunt down the convict they of course believe to be the culprit & urge the others to stay together in a room for safety, but soon the newlyweds get into a fight, leave the group, & Lou ends up dead, too. Meanwhile the convict is really on the run, desperate to leave the motel behind him, & he sees some houses, breaks into one - & realizes he has just broken into the motel he desperately tried to get away from. Ed & Rhodes find him of course & beat him to pulp, then bind him to a chair. 

But when he is left alone for a few minutes & is totally helpless, he is killed too in a most brutal way. Suspicion now falls upon Larry - especially when in his freezer a corpse is found, & his excuse for that fact is most feeble. So now Larry is bound to a chair, but when Alice dies from the wounds of her accident, he can use the confusion to try a getaway, but when doing so runs over Alice's husband -  who was trying to save his son Timmy - with a car before crashing it into a shed. 

Ed now has the idea of letting Ginny & Timmy - the least guilty of the group of survivors - go & search for the killer among the remaining group - but then the car with which the woman & the kid wanted to escape blows up. Curiously enough though, no corpses are found in the car's wreck - but not only that, none of the corpses are found at all, anywhere, & ... Ed wakes up to a different reality, he seems to be one manifestation of a psychotic killer with a multiple personality disorder, & not only that, he is not even Ed after all but Malcolm (Pruitt Taylor Vince) a convict sentenced to death who has one final hearing to determine if he is either put to death or the sentence sustained for reasons of insanity. The whole mystery-plot is only taking place in his mind, being a fight of his different personae, among them the killing persona (!?). 

Back to the motel, where hooker Paris finds out that cop Rhodes is not a cop after all but a convict himself, & just about everybody shoots everybody else until only Paris, the hooker with a heart of gold, stays alive & goes to Florida to grow oranges - as - in real life - does Malcolm, whose sentence was sustained since the court has been convinced that the killer - in the form of fake cop Rhodes - has been killed off in his mind. But then little Timmy comes to visit Paris & kills her - him actually having been the real killer all along (plausible inasmuch as he was never actually proven dead & had easiest access to all the murder victims). In real life, Malcolm kills his guards ...

 

It starts out as a nice, old-fashioned but not dusty old-dark-house-whodunit, that does not make the mistake to needlessly update the genre with fancy camera-shots, computer generated effects, or over-constructed psychological expsanations - until the final third that is, when the movie takes a postmodernist turn & everything is explained away as just taking place in the mind of a convict with multiple personality disorder, which comes across extremely heavy handed, way too superficial, not really thought through & - let's face it - silly. However, fortunately that plottwist does come too late to seriously spoil the movie as a whole.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD