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Movie Review: "Identity"

It's a dark and stormy night.

No, really. That's not just a bad opening line to a novel, it's the scene-setting for this film. It's somewhere in Nevada, in the middle of nowhere (of course), and a series of road mishaps and other accidents leaves 9 people stranded.

John Cusack is a limo driver, driving Rebecca de Mornay, a has-been actress (typecasting?); there's a family with a small boy who suffers a blowout, and then a terrifying accident; a hooker leaving Las Vegas (Amanda Peet); a young couple who just got married there; and Ray Liotta, a cop transporting a prisoner, and this prisoner seems to be the center of the film. And one by one they are murdered, or die in accidents, with numbered room keys left by the bodies. Or, in some cases, parts of bodies.

Or not. In some ways this film reminded me of "Memento", another thriller that told a story that didn't wind up being about what you thought it was about (though "Identity" isn't told backwards as "Memento" was). And if you think I've revealed too much, I've really told you almost nothing.

Is Cusack really a limo driver? Or is he a cop? Or does he even exist at all? Is Liotta a cop? Or is he a prisoner himself? Is John Hawkes really the motel manager?

There are interesting clues planted, and then ripped away from us as the film suddenly tells a totally different story, of a condemned prisoner whose lawyer and psychiatrist (Alfred Molina, looking very different than he did in "Frida") are trying to get his sentence reduced. And no, this isn't the same prisoner at the motel.

I can't really tell you any more without ruining the plot twists and surprises, so I'll just tell you to go see this film. It makes you think, which is rare among films these days, and though it ends, and the ending neatly sums up the plot, in some ways the ending is another beginning.

AYRating: ***