"Identity" ... a promising beginning that ends predictably.  

I SUPPOSE many would have heard of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Niggers" where a group of strangers are brought together in a desolate place and terrorised by murders? Well James Mangold has too, and has pieced together, with the help of screenplay writer Michael Cooney, a version of it with all the effects and gimmicks possible these days. And it is not very subtle either.

Columbia Pictures' "Identity" begins promisingly enough. Spooky, scary and smartly edited with freezes and counter views. And it is beautifully photographed as well, with the cinematographer (Phedon Papamichael) capturing the dank and menacing, stormy night to perfection. The rain coming down incessantly adds to the gloom and the scares are plenty. Till it subsides into one of those predictable climaxes which leaves you wondering what all the fuss was about!

It is a dark night. It is pouring cats and dogs. Phones don't work and the highway is flooded. There is an accident and a family is truncated with the injury of the wife. A child is a mute, horrified witness.

The driver of the car (John Cusack) which crashes into the woman, is urged by his boss, an ageing TV star (Rebecca De Mornay) to drive on, but he chooses to get down and help.

Meanwhile, more are stranded because of the waters and all find themselves in a ramshackle motel on the way with just a surly manager (John Hawkes) who gives them rooms for the night `at full price.'

The travellers, a motley crowd, includes a police officer (Ray Liotta) taking a homicide criminal (Jake Bussey) to a court hearing, a call girl (Amanda Peet) and a pair of quarrelling newly weds (Clea Duvall and William Lee Scott). Then start the murders. One by one, till there are only three of them left. It gets crazier by the minute and finally it appears there is a secret story line that is as exciting as left over noodles.

John plays his part reasonably well — decent and enigmatic and so do the others. But what is strange is that all of them at some point or the other keep wandering off to get something and stumble upon danger.

The director gets the heart racing especially in the scene when the newly weds have a huge fight with a door in between and a lot of screaming takes place. But it is obvious that having begun so well, the responsibility of finishing it along the lines of a psychodrama, was too heavy. He probably painted himself into a tight corner, which is what resulted in the frustrating climax. Revealing that would be frustrating too so if it has appealed till now see the film!