Sunday, September 27, 2015


SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

I know that this 2003 film was not well received by critics, but I believe it has some interesting psychological elements, as well as being a thriller with some intriguing plot twists.

A killer is being brought in a raging rain storm for a last minute plea for a stay in his execution before a judge. It is the defense's argument that the dissociative (or multiple personality) killer, Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince), after being treated by psychiatrist Dr. Malick (Alfred Molina), should not be given the death penalty. We then switch to Ed (John Cusack), a chauffeur, driving a movie star (Rebecca De Mornay) in the storm. After being distracted by the actress, he runs over a woman who is with her husband and a child, Timmy (Bret Loehr), who is mute following the accident. Cell phones are not working in the storm, and Ed drives everybody to a dilapidated motel.  There he meets Larry (John Hawkes), who is the manager. It is curious that Ed has a gun.  He is able to stitch up the mother's neck wound, but she lays prone in a reception area. A young man and his wife show up, as does Rhodes (Ray Liotta), flashing a badge. He is transporting a murderer, whom we believe is the one who is to show up at the late night hearing. When Ed drives to get help, he meets a young woman, Paris (Amanda Peet).  Since the roads are washed out, they return to the hotel. Larry immediately slanders Paris, saying she is slutty looking. Paris finds out that Ed was a cop, but he left the force after not being able to give a pregnant AIDS infected druggie suicidal jumper a reason to live.  (The book on the car seat next to Ed is Sartre's Being and Nothingness, a good indication of his existential belief in the lack of objective meaning in life).

Deaths start to occur. The movie star's head is found tumbling in a dryer, and the young husband is stabbed to death. The murderer, Robert Maine (Jake Busey), has broken loose, and everybody suspects him in the killings. After being captured, he, too, is found dead, with Larry's baseball bat shoved down his throat. Before dying, the murderer states that he believes that Larry is hiding something, and says he also has a secret. We find that Larry is hiding a dead body in the freezer, whom he says was the proprietor he found dead when he first arrived.  He simply took over his position, taking the guests' money.  The others suspect him of the deaths, and when he escapes, he accidentally runs over the father who pushes Timmy away from the oncoming truck. The guests start finding room keys on all the dead bodies, and question how a murderer could have arranged a car accident. Ed tells the young wife to take the boy and drive away. However, the car explodes into flames. Now the story really veers into the unrealistic, because all of the dead bodies are now missing, with no trace of blood at the death scenes. And, we find that Larry, Paris, Rhodes, and Ed were born on the same day.

We now switch to the hearing again, and the real murderer arrives strapped into a wheel chair. It appears to be Ed, but Dr. Malick gives him a mirror, and it is Rivers’ face that he sees. The psychiatrist says that he is just one of Rivers' personalities, and that all of the events at the motel are in his head (thus the same birth date for the characters). Rivers was traumatized in his youth, and one of the personalities he developed was a killer lashing out in anger. Malick's therapy was to eliminate the extra personalities, including the one that is the killer, so Rivers' personality can be reintegrated. Back again inside Rivers' head, Paris finds in the glove compartment of Rhodes' car the dead killer's secret – he and Rhodes were convicts being transported, and there is the body of the policeman who Rhodes killed en route in the trunk. Rhodes pretended to be him. Rhodes kills Larry as Paris escapes. As Malick talks in the real world to the Ed personality, he hunts down Rhodes in Rivers’ mind. We first think that his character will be Rivers' surviving personality, but he is only a catalyst.  He kills Rhodes, but is killed in the process. The only survivor is Paris. She had told Ed that she wanted to return to her home in Florida and grow oranges. The defense convinces the judge that the killer personality is now dead, Rivers' death sentence is commuted, and he is remanded to a psychiatric hospital.

On the way there, with Malick and a policeman driving the vehicle, we see inside Rivers' head. Paris is in sunny Florida, among the orange groves. But, while digging she finds her motel key, the sign of death in this story. Did everyone share the same birthday?  No, not the young boy, Timmy.  She turns around, and standing over her we see the boy holding a sharp tool. We, as does Malick, hear Rivers' voice, and the audience hears it coming out of the boy's mouth. He says that whores don't get a second chance, and he slashes at the young woman at the same time that Rivers strangles the psychiatrist and we assume kills the driver. We see flashbacks in Rivers' head that it is the boy who has done all the killings, including suffocating his resting mother. What was the abuse he suffered as a child? The references to sluts and whores may refer to a sexually abusive mother. It makes sense that it is the child in Rivers that remains as the killer personality, taking revenge for the pain he suffered as a helpless youth.

Admittedly, the dialogue is not sharp here, and the rationale for many of the killer's personalities is not substantiated. However, the film is inventive and different in having a murder mystery take place inside the mind of a character in a movie.

Next week’s movie is Casablanca.

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