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July 31, 2007

In the same way that some people could start a fight in an empty room, it appears that some people can contrive to fall off the floor despite having the all the right equipment and detailed instructions.

Alarmingly, this seems true of Walk The Line‘s director, James Mangold, whose daft you-won’t-see-the-twist-coming psychobabble serial killer thriller Identity I saw at the weekend.

Identity…geddit? No, perhaps a tad too soon, but you will.

Ten strangers (yeah, ten) are ‘trapped’ in a motel (stop yawning at the back) and gradually get bumped off in – wait for it – a variety of ways. Interspersed with this, Alfred Molina, who not only has a beard and an English accent but wears specs really well and so must be a bit of a brain-box, is interviewing a man so fat and bald he could only be an irredeemable loony (oh cool, so that means Alfred’s a Psychologist; there you go, I knew he was smart, what with the frikkin’ glasses and all). It’s all coming together. There is no obvious link between these two stories, except for the fact that they’re in the same movie and it’s a movie that’s almost certainly been shown in multiplexes in the MidWest…so they clearly are linked.

Deep sigh.

Anyhoo, these ten people are trapped, and on first appearances they seem like a good enough bunch: John Cusak, Ray Liotta, Rebecca de Mornay, that chap from Scrubs with the rectangular head, someone from CSI: Biggleswade, etc… A bunch, some recognisable but clearly in the shop window for better work, some just glad of a break from all the coke-sniffing and daisy-chain buggery you get in LA. Heck, you know it happens. These people aren’t gods just because they appear on television!

Anyway. So.

Did I say ‘trapped in a motel’? Yes, happens all the time, doesn’t it? Shitting crikey, I thought, as I watched, the times I’ve been trapped in a motel. If I had a pound for every time I’ve been trapped in a motel, I’d have…less than a pound. Oh, look, it’s raining, you see, and the motel’s in the middle of nowhere, and no-one can get a signal on their moby and the roads are closed because clearly rain has only just been invented and caught everyone unaware. And so they’re all cooped up in this gothic little hell-hole, ripe for plucking. Back and forth we go, from motel to Psychologist, from Psychologist to motel, and all the while it gets more and more convoluted and people start dying and the killer could be any one of them (but, hey, surely not the little kid?!), but at the same time the killer can’t be any of them because people drift in and out of the frame all the time. Oh and they all discover their names are States and they all share the same birthday. Or something.

Fuck-a-doodle-do. Let’s re-cap.

You are watching a movie called Identity. You are watching a movie called Identity. There are ten people with similar names who all share the same birthday. They’re ‘trapped’ in an implausibly artificial environment. Their demises are inexplicable. Then, there’s poor old Alfred Molina thesping it up big stylee as the Psychologist trying to piece together the fractured mind of a unsympathetically depilated, obese, not-as-pretty-as-the-assholes-who-are-dying madman who is outside of the artificial environment. You work it out.

It took me about half an hour…and once you get ‘the twist’, what is there in this sort of movie for you to give a toss about? Mangold had everything at his disposal here, including a way-above average cast, but he screws up lamentably. Stylistically, it only just aspired to the Elm Street movies; thematically, it wanted to be The Sixth Sense; artistically it stank like a tramp’s todger.

And this guy made Walk The Line? Jeeesh.

I’m saddest for John Cusak, frankly, who ought to retire now and leave us with memories of Grosse Point Blank, The Grifters and The Sure Thing, and not dross like this.

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