***/**** Image A Sound A Extras B
starring John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina
screenplay by Michael Cooney
directed by James Mangold
by Walter Chaw Although by the end it isn't nearly as interesting as it is clever, James Mangold's take on the slasher genre Identity is a tricky little beast that fits in peculiarly well with the recent trend of deconstructive horror films (such as The Ring and Soft for Digging). Its use of Hughes Mearns's haunting "Antigonish" (1899, "I was going up the stair/I met a man who wasn't there!/He wasn't there again today!/I wish, I wish he'd stay away!") reminds of Dario Argento's nursery dirge in Deep Red, while the film's telescoping storytelling style evokes, of all things, the caper genre. With its title suggesting a certain high-mindedness, when a character glances for a swollen moment at Sartre's Being and Nothingness, it tells too much of what the film will be about: the philosopher's existential definition of consciousness projected onto reality and the dangers of mauvaise foi (bad faith), the process by which people, within themselves, elude responsibility for what they do. Still, the film is such a professional exercise on every level that its obviousness--better, its literalness--can be forgiven.