Directed by James Mangold
Written by Michael Cooney
This was an okay thriller. It’s basically a Twilight Zone episode, but without any of the social commentary. It kept me mildly entertained as I tried to figure out what was going on and since that’s all the film strives to be, I feel comfortable recommending it in that context. Not all films are, or try to be, The Bicycle Thief, so turn off your brain and overlook the few plot points that don’t make sense. Identity is just here to make you jump at loud noises and brutalized corpses.
Speaking of loud noises, either the theater I saw it at (Edwards Spectrum 21) had the sound too loud or the film isn't mixed well because its volume was annoying at times. If you expect more from a film than a startle, this will definitely leave you disappointed because of what it lacks. Unfortunately, I can't say much more without spoiling the story, so know that I mildly recommend it and if you don't want the story revealed, avert your eyes from the rest of this.
For the most part I thought the movie was well written until the end. The story starts off at two different points. First, we have a killer, Malcolm Rivers, who is being transported to a special, midnight court hearing to determine his sanity before he is to be put to death. Next, we meet different travelers who are stranded due to the pouring rain at a motel in a remote part of Nevada: a family, an actress and her driver, a call girl, young newlyweds and lastly, a federal agent who is transporting an inmate. The characters seem like real people and not just caricatures used solely to add to the body count. For a while the story had me thinking that Rivers is the inmate who gets trapped at the motel. This was a nice move on the writer's part.
While the judge and lawyers are determining Rivers’ fate, someone starts killing people at the hotel one by one. The usual, good performances are turned in by Ray Liotta, the federal agent, and John Cusack, the former cop turned driver, as they try to solve what’s going on. Once Cusack discovers some major clues, such as everyone having a state in their name and everyone having the same birthday, he appears in Rivers’ place at the hearing. When he looks in the mirror, he stills sees Rivers’ reflection. As it turns out Cusack is one of the personalities of Rivers’ as is everyone else at the motel. Dun-dun-dun!
In a bit of intense therapy that the audience doesn’t witness, Rivers’ has been “killing” his personalities off to show the court that, though insane, he no longer has a violent personality. That’s why the people have been getting killed at the motel. Having seen this transformation before his eyes, the judge rules that Rivers is insane and he is spared the death penalty. I don't know what the court thinks is happening to the other personalities, but it's obviously not the decapitations or explosions the audience sees. As Rivers is being taken to the asylum, he kills again because the homicidal personality wasn't "killed." Dun-dun-dun!
Now some things that made no sense:
It felt like some events happened only to provide misdirection rather than being part of the story. At first, when the personalities start dying, their bodies are left behind and a hotel key is in their possession, the number of which provides a running countdown of the people/personalities left at the motel. Later, all the bodies vanish. Why have the bodies stack up at one point then all vanish later. What does their vanishing accomplish that killing them didn’t?
Even though the motel sequence takes place in a madman’s mind, the rules of that world should follow some order, even if it appears crazy to us. It's too easy to trick the viewers. Otherwise, people should be able to fly or turn into cats.
In the world of the personalities, we are shown the call girl is the last remaining personality. How this is accomplished I'm not sure. Anyway, things are great but the homicidal personality, a little boy, shows up to "kill" her and he is shown to be responsible for all the personality "killings."
Questions become plentiful at this point. Why does the boy need to be involved in all the killings? If the therapy session was about getting down to one personality, couldn't any of them have been responsible. There were at least two other personalities that believably would kill people. Couldn't it have been that none of them were responsible as Malcolm was making the "killings" happen? Why the need to "kill" all the personalities when the violent ones are the only ones that need to be dispensed with. The mother and father don't appear to be violent, so why must they be disposed of? It would have been nice to see Rivers as these other personalities and understand why he chose or needed to become them.
Back in the real world the doctor comes off like an idiot when he opens the cage and gets killed by Malcolm in the end. Is this the first lunatic he's worked with? Did he really think the guy was cured? Malcolm had gone from over 10 personalities to seemingly one in the course of a few hours. Realistically, how stable could the guy be?
The revelations at the end are my big gripe. Normally, I wouldn't recommend it, but it's okay for those who want a quick thrill. Maybe I'm the one who's unstable. I'd never watch it again unless I developed a personality that could sit through average movies more than once. If that happened, I might be forced to kill, but would it be for the first time?! Dun-dun-dun!