10 li’l whodunnits

Identity Starring John Cusack, Jake Busey, Rebecca DeMornay and Ray Liotta. Directed by James Mangold. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 & Tinseltown. Rated R.
Rated 3.0 An Arizona gully washer sets up a series of mishaps resulting in a handful of disparate stock characters being stranded at an isolated desert motel during the course of director James Mangold’s co-written thriller, Identity. Unfortunately, those hapless motorists soon find that a faceless murderer has taken it upon himself to pick them off one by one, à la Ten Little Indians.

On hand is the comforting presence of ex-cop John Cusack, who attempts to deduce exactly what perverse twist of fate has brought him and his fellow travelers to this point of reckoning. Suffice it to say that small details subsequently help to knit together parallel plot lines, resulting in one of those “love-it-or-loathe-it” popcorn thrillers that show up once in a blue moon.

At turns grimly amusing, suspenseful, and gruesome without resorting to overt goriness, Identity at first seems like a seamless upscale "stalk-n-slash" but takes a surprising turn toward the conclusion that, while not entirely successful, does get extra bonus points for its sheer audacity.