Identity | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Usual Suspects syndrome--a Hollywood mania for thrillers whose twist endings turn the whole narrative sock inside out--has resulted in a lot of bad movies in the past few years, scripted by writers so intent on their climactic switcheroos that they neglect everything else in the story. But this devious little mystery by Michael Cooney, author of several successful thrillers for the British stage, managed to pull the rug out from under me about three-quarters of the way through, and I still hadn't found my feet when the credits rolled. In the finest tradition of Agatha Christie, a torrential rainstorm traps an assortment of already troubled souls (John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Clea DuVall, John C. McGinley, Rebecca De Mornay) in a Nevada motel, where they begin to die in reverse order of their room numbers; meanwhile, on the eve of a serial killer's execution, a judge convenes an emergency evidentiary hearing that can't be concluded until a prison transport arrives with the condemned man. This is no work of art, but it'll definitely make you spill your popcorn a few times. James Mangold (Cop Land) directed. 90 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Crown Village 18, Davis, Ford City, Gardens 1-6, Lawndale, Norridge, North Riverside, River East 21, Webster Place.

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