Identity (2003)

(In theaters, April 2003) It is incredibly fitting that this film will leave viewers with (at least) two very different impressions. The first one stems from the first half of the film, which is a cliché-ridden, yet aptly-executed murder mystery that lulls us in predictable conformity. But pay attention, because the film suddenly veers in fantasyland, leading to our second impression. The central conceit of Identity is so audacious it feels like something midway from genius and pure audience contempt. In a way, it rescues a film that seemed to be headed for pure clichés. In another, it slaps the audience in the face and shouts loudly “Ha. Didn’t see That Coming!” Some of you will enjoy. Some of you won’t care. Some of you will feel cheated. And some of you will feel all of this at once. Suffice to say that there’s a lot to like at a basic level: John Cusak turns in one of his best performances in years, with able support from Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet and a good supporting cast. Director James Mangold manages to do interesting things with familiar material. Plus, of course, the script… but enough about that. Except to say that the last minute is a howler, the kind of cheap ending that has no relation to reality. But that, in many ways, is the whole point.

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