Wednesday, May 30, 2012

REVIEW: Identity (2003)

I’ve been debating recently as to whether the ending of a film can literally be so bad as to ruin the entire experience. If the rest of the film up until the third act has been a relatively pleasant and investing experience, can the ending really take it all away that fast? In Super, for example, it did kind of ruin the movie, as the ending undermined what the rest of the film was trying to do. In other movies, like today’s subject, however…it’s less complicated than that. In movies like Identity, the ending ruins the movie simply because it makes the whole thing completely suck while at the same time making you wish they hadn’t tried so damn hard to make something intellectual! Argh! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s watch this stinker.

Director: James Mangold
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet

The movie begins with a bunch of cops preparing for a late night hearing the last night before a convicted murderer is about to get executed, and apparently the defense found some new evidence conveniently right before he was supposed to croak. What timely events!

Then we cut to a seedy looking motel where a family that looks like they should be in that god-awful Cape Fear remake is driving around. They run over a spiked heel in the middle of the road – weird, right? The movie thinks so, too, so it takes the time to flash back to a hooker played by Amanda Peet playing bondage birthday cake games with an old fat man, like something out of a horrible caption contest picture. Seriously, just look at this:

Anyway, she packs her stuff and then remembers she has to get something while driving later, so even though she’s all alone on a deserted road, she can’t just pull over and stop to look for it, no; she has to try and do it WHILE DRIVING. So she loses a bunch of stuff from her suitcase, including the shoe that the family ran over. Was this flashback…at all necessary to explain why a shoe was in the middle of the road? Actually yes, yes it was. I was actually hoping they would show MORE of that flashback, like why Amanda Peet became a hooker to begin with! Or what she ate for lunch the previous day. Or the first time she saw Two Girls One Cup.

Anyway, then the mother who was in the car gets hit by another car driven by everyone’s favorite limo driver, John Cusack, who was in 2012 several years later where he also played a limo driver. Amanda Peet was also in 2012. I SMELL CONSPIRACY! Anyway Cusack wants to go help the woman he just ran over, but the bitchy actress he’s driving around says no, because…well, there is no reason. She’s just a callous and horrible person.

Cusack, being a decent person, helps them anyway and they all go into a motel run by this guy, who was in Winter’s Bone and…yeah, he was certainly in that…anyway, in this movie he's just really prejudiced against Amanda Peet's hooker character. This unnecessary and senseless bias makes up the core of his character.

"I'm the highest class of cheap seedy motel owners!" Seriously you dumbass, don't prostitutes come in there all the time? Look at the place you run! Must be hard to get what very little business you get if you're selective about your customers!

And yeah, Amanda Peet is back. She drives back by the place where she lost her stuff – hours later? Really? What was she doing that whole time? Did she just reach her destination and then think, “gee, I really liked that one shoe I lost! Better go get it!”? That…just seems strange to me. Anyway, she gets stuck, too, and picked up by the Cusack. They find this other couple driving around, Lou and Gina, who don’t have a cell phone for them to use. What? Don’t have a cell phone? In this day and age? Pfft…it’s like this was made in 2003 or something…

Meanwhile, since this movie had too much dignity before, Ray Liotta shows up as a cop transporting a murderer to add his own input to the movie. He’s a short-tempered gun-crazy lunatic of a cop, but he’s still better than his character from Hannibal.

"Allow me to prevent you from ever finding me likable at all...mmmm...sleaze..."

His convict is played by Jake Busey from Starship Troopers, rounding out the cast of B-level actors you know you've seen in other movies, but can't remember exactly which ones. Joyous.

Then we see that Cusack apparently has the magical main character powers that every hero in these movies has as he manages to stitch up that George guy’s wife who he hit with the car earlier – oh, did you not even remember that with all the other nonsense going on in this movie? My bad. Allow me to never correct this convoluted insanity. But I digress – you know how in all of these poorly written films, the protagonist is a guy with a shit job who can somehow, almost magically, do unexpected things like fix wounds and take charge in tense situations? Cusack is like the poster child for that in this movie.

John Cusack is God! He can do ANYTHING!

Meanwhile in the courthouse, people shout because apparently that’s what this movie thinks is dramatic. Don’t have any actual depth? Try HAVING ALL YOUR CHARACTERS SHOUT ALL THE TIME AND LOOK SERIOUS. Screenwriting 101!

So before you start to think this whole thing is the set-up for a horrible Nancy Drew book, things get hairy as the actress Cusack was driving around is found murdered in the washing machine, because I guess she wasn’t clean enough! This of course sends everyone into a panic, especially when they find out that the convict Ray Liotta was transporting has escaped. This causes Lou and Gina to go have a sporadic fight for no apparent reason. Apparently, Gina lied about being pregnant to get Lou to marry her because her best friend told her that she saw him talking to some girl at a bar and…oh, do you care? Just put it on Jerry Springer. The whole thing ends with Lou gutted in the corner:

Well that's a LITTLE bloodier than most couple fights get...

Then they find out that Liotta's convict, who has been tied up to prevent him from doing anything crazy, has been murdered - SO WHO WAS THE KILLER? They get their answer when they find out that Larry has a dead body in his freezer. He tries to drive away but actually just hits and smashes George against a wall like a cartoon character turned to a pancake, killing him instantly. So they tie him up and he tells them the story of how he was broke and strapped for cash and came across the motel and found the owner dead, so he just started acting like he was the motel owner.

Then all the dead bodies start disappearing without a trace, like they were cleaned up by Samuel L. Jackson in Cleaner!

Except that was actually pretty good.

Then it's wacky fun escaping time as that Gina chick and the little kid, Timmy, try to drive away, but unfortunately the car has other plans for them, as it's tired of being in this movie and wants a quick out:

Then things get even WACKIER as everyone realizes they all have the same birthday and that their names are all named after states, like Ed Dakota, Larry Washington and so on, so forth. What relevance does this have to anything? Well, just wait a few minutes - you're about to be horribly disappointed.

And then time just unravels as John Cusack wakes up and gets told by Shakespearean actor Alfred Molina – yes, they got a guy who was in The Tempest to be in this garbage – that he (Cusack) is actually just one of this serial killer’s split personalities, of which there are 10 in total (i.e. all the main characters in the film), and one of them has been “killing” the other personalities inside his mind at the motel for the entire movie up until now.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet THE ONLY REAL CHARACTER IN THE MOVIE!

So yes. This movie just basically did a ‘none of it really happened’ trick on us. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I’m not even going to be able to review the rest of this in a linear fashion – it’s bullet point time!

+ First off, I must repeat – ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is the worst ending twist I’ve maybe ever seen! How do you even DO something like this…you have a relatively good story going on and then you just completely BOTCH it with one of the outright stupidest ending twists ever! Couldn’t these idiots have just stuck to the motel story? That actually wasn’t bad! Sure, it was hammy, ridiculous and over the top, but it was at least an interesting story! The characters had some depth and they were getting kind of interesting. Why would I even WANT to watch a movie about some fat POS in a chair about to be electrocuted with multiple personalities? The movie has clearly picked the wrong plot to come out on the forefront.

+ So what, all of these characters are inside his mind, right? So Amanda Peet, John Cusack, Ray Liotta and that Winter’s Bone guy all live in the head of an overweight version of the Pillsbury Dough Boy? Somehow I don’t think that’s going to hold up. And since this guy was actually ‘acting out’ the whole movie in his head all along, just picture him doing that scene with the prostitute and the guy handcuffed to the bed with the birthday cake on his chest. Isn’t that a pretty picture?


+ Third, the premise behind this is that the multiple personalities this guy has are the characters we’ve been watching this whole time, and they are killing each other off in a mental “battle” for a dominant personality to emerge. This could possibly be interesting if it were handled in a better way (more on that in the next bullet point), like in some kind of really artsy film, but for what is supposed to be a grounded, semi-realistic psychological thriller? It’s beyond bad. The whole premise is that the defense lawyer for the guy is trying to get the court to overturn his execution by proving that the “killer” personality is gone. How are they supposed to prove that? Are they just going to point at him and say “Look, he’s cured now”?

There is NO WAY this would ever fly in any actual US courtroom. He would be sent to the killing chair the second that idiotic psychologist brought up the concept that his multiple personalities were literally killing each other off in his mind like a bad Friday the 13th sequel. I mean really, you might as well just use the South Park Imaginationland argument and argue that leprechauns are real even though they’re imaginary – in fact that argument was much better handled than the one THIS crockpot of a lawyer is suggesting!

+ And FOURTH and finally, this story is handled in a crapsack, hamfisted, clumsy-ass way! There’s no subtlety to this! Oh, it’s raining all the time because his mind is in chaos! Oh, the characters all have the same birthday because it’s really HIS birthday! SUCH SUBTLE CLUES! Why don’t you just slap a B-roll on the bottom of the screen explaining how we’re supposed to be SO AMAZED at this movie’s intellect the entire runtime? You might as well.

To sum it up, this plot twist is total, complete and utter ass!

Phew. So let’s wrap it up – Liotta is revealed to be an escaped prisoner who just disguised himself as a cop. He kills off Larry and eventually shoots John Cusack, too, who is a saint for actually giving a crap about his performance in this thing – seriously, acting like he cared about any of this must have been an exercise in sheer mastery of will – and then Amanda Peet kills him, too, escaping to an orange grove in Florida, a plot point which was explained somewhere while you were marveling over how stupid the end plot twist was.

Then we flash back to the real world again where the courts, probably because they were just tired of being in this piece of shit movie, have decided that the killer’s execution will be stayed, since they apparently DID believe that Liotta was the “killer personality” and that now that the Ray Liotta portion of his brain has been removed, he is no longer a danger to anyone. But since Ray Liotta has no brain, what does this really mean? Is it a statement on how little our minds actually see that’s true? Or is it saying that you should have spent your money on a different movie? I’m going with the second one.

Really, the only thing that could possibly make this movie any worse is if the little kid, who disappeared earlier, turned out to be the killer all alo---

Don't f*ck with little kids!

AW, GODDAMN, YOU JUST HAD TO DO IT, DIDN’T YOU?! You morons! Were you just trying for the worst possible ass-fest of twists you could think of? The Sixth Sense and Signs were still pretty recent; were you just trying to outdo those for worst ending twists ever put on screen? It’s made more insulting when they actually put in horrible over the top flashbacks from the kid’s point of view that explain how he killed everyone, like we couldn’t “get” it otherwise. Ugh! I don’t even care. This review is over. I don’t even have to explain why this one sucks, do I? Just don’t watch it. You’ll have a better day.

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