Sony // 2003 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // April 16th, 2007
The secret lies within.
Among the wave of releases of next-generation titles, Identity was the most curious. The sleepy thriller film with John Cusack (Being John Malkovich) and Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) is now out on Blu-ray disc ahead of a lot of other more favored films. So how does this stack up in high definition, and how are the film's artistic merits?
From a script written by Michael Cooney (Jack Frost) and directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line), Identity covers Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince, Nobody's Fool), and a last minute hearing that has been granted before his execution for numerous murders. Running parallel to this story is one where George (John C. McGinley, Platoon) is driving along in Nevada with his wife and son before car troubles occur. While George's wife Alice is playing with her son, a distracted Ed (Cusack) hits her full on with his car. He's driving Caroline (Rebecca De Mornay, The Slugger's Wife) back to Los Angeles. Oh, and George's car troubles? A flat tire, after one of Paris' (Amanda Peet, The Whole Nine Yards) shoes fell out of her convertible and onto the road. A desert storm floods both sides of the road, so everyone goes back to a motel where Larry (John Hawkes, The Perfect Storm) is the manager. And along with the run of guests, he gets several more; the recently Vegas-married Ginny (Clea Duvall, Zodiac) and her husband Lou (William Lee Scott, Gone in Sixty Seconds), along with a police officer (Liotta) and a convicted murderer (Jake Busey, Starship Troopers) he's attempting to transport. When Caroline is found murdered in the middle of the night, the story that looks a lot like "And Then There Were None" begins.
I've got to admit, when I first saw the trailer for Identity, it intrigued me a little bit, although the premise seemed like it had been done several times before. The other main factor that intrigued me was seeing Cusack in the lead role. Quite frankly, unless he's playing a role in a Cameron Crowe romantic comedy or making the long-awaited sequel to Better Off Dead, I'm generally not all that interested in what he says and does. To his credit, he pulls off the role of Ed rather convincingly, as a guy who's a driver now, but was a cop in a previous life, and apparently a decent one at that. That seems to be the only thing really holding this film up though, as Liotta channels one of the many different creeps he's played through the last decade or so. Busey is channeling, well, his dad. Peet throws in a southern accent (she's from Florida, you know), but that's a little on the Jeff Bridges Blown Away side of things when it comes to consistency.
Still though, things seem to get sillier the further we get away from the first act. When the bodies start falling, the suggestion is made that because it's on sacred Indian burial grounds, and perhaps the murders are the result of the supernatural. However if I was going to really be clever, I'd volunteer that the ghost of Heather O'Rourke come back from the dead to haunt and kill anyone that would make such a stupid inference. And while you don't quite see the ending coming, the last scenes of the film feel tacked on and unnecessary, to the point of being wholly unbelievable. I'll give Cooney the credit of at least trying, but come on, this guy made a movie about killer snowmen, could none of us see that things were going to get silly? Of course by now, I'm hoping you know that I won't reveal any spoilers to this film, and hope that none have been implied by anything I've discussed. But simply put, if I've got to have a copy of the DSM-IV by my bedside in order to appreciate whatever ingenuity Identity may have, I'd just as soon watch Sybil and get it over with.
The 1080p/MPEG-4 transfer for Identity is better than I was expecting. By no means is this a very colorful movie, but since most of this movie occurs after hours, the blacks look really good, and the picture is first rate despite the gloomy setting. The PCM surround track is OK, with surrounds and the subwoofer picking the pace up when the thunder claps. The extras are brought over from the standard definition version of the film, starting with a commentary by Mangold. He knows his stuff when it comes to the production of the film and those fans of the film will want to check out this commentary if they haven't already. The on-set featurette by the Starz channel is included, along with some deleted scenes with optional commentary. You get some storyboard comparisons, and for Blu-ray buyers of the film, you get an unadvertised commentary with Cooney as a bonus. His is a little more enjoyable (Mangold comes off as a bit dry) and writer commentaries usually bring some background information you wouldn't be privy to otherwise, so that's nice.
This doesn't really have a lot of relevancy to the film itself, but check out the subtitling options that this disc has, I've never seen so many different ones! I don't know what Sony's fetish is for including exotic subtitles on their movies, or for the fact that this film also has an uncompressed German PCM track either. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Hungarian market for Identity is probably slim to none, so the subtitled options are a little curious.
There's been a pretty even divide from people who liked Identity to people who haven't. I'm one of those on the latter side of things. The acting was decent, but the story came off as a little too unbelievable and silly despite being held in an original setting. If you've got this on DVD, it's worth the upgrade for the picture and the new commentary alone, otherwise I'd say walk on by this one and wait for something good.
The cast and crew are found guilty and sentenced to spend time in the place they were unable to leave for 90 minutes, as I was.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (German)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (German)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentaries by Director James Mangold and Writer Michael Cooney
* Starz: On the Set
* Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director James Mangold
* Storyboard Comparisons
* Official Site