Identity (dir. James Mangold, 2003).

Like David Fincher's Se7en or Robert Rodriguez' Sin City, James Mangold's Identity is neon bubble-gum horror noir that thumbs its nose at the very notion of textual depth or subtlety. Identity, however, has a cast that apparently believes they're acting in a real movie, so it's at least fun to watch them wasting their time. In particular, Ray Liotta is maybe the closest thing we've got to a modern-day John Garfield or the like: playing a man, not a good man, trying to pass as an upstanding citizen and constantly betraying his thug's heart through little shrugs and guilty glances, he is a marvel to behold. He should have won something for this (did he? I don't keep track of those things). John Hawkes is good too, and John Cusack ... well, you know, he's always the same, but it works. John McGinley is squandered on any role where he doesn't play a jerk. Amanda Peet is all over the map, as usual, but she has so much gusto. Alfred Molina is practically an extra. Then there's poor Rebecca De Mornay, who is cast, it seems, chiefly as a cruel joke at her expense. John Hawkes, behind the motel desk, looks at her ID and says with a look of delighted recognition, "Didn't you used to be that actress"?

As for the story, it's a colossal cheat, not quite as clever as it tries to be, and therefore unable fully to compensate for its root inanity. Visually, it's terrific. The motel set they built for the film is almost too perfect. The color balance and meticulously arranged iconic retro elements (flickering sign, etc.) are so stunning that you can never quite forget you're looking at a simulacrum. Which, in a way, is appropriate.

1 comment:

Willie Ziebell said...

I saw this in the theater. Molina was in it? I can't remember that far back.

OWAIT. Yes. He was.

Here's my review from five years ago: thick end of baseball bat + esophagus: tee-hee. Ridiculous "tagline" ending. I liked it even though I felt like I shouldn't. I liked it for the wrong reasons. John Cusack was in the rain again, where he feels most comfortable.