The In-Laws

John Cusack, Ray Liotta, John Hawkes. Directed by James Mangold.
Running Time: 90 mins
Rated: MA 15+

The dictionary tells us that Identity means one's individual personality.

It also means people being the same, identical. It also has psychological overtones of a person's hold on self - identity crisis and so on.

James Mangold made a film about women in an institution for mental illness in 1999, Girl Interrupted. Clearly the topic interested him. But he has taken the patient outside the institution and created a variation on Hitchcock, motels and slasher killers as well as a case study of multiple personality. We hear that Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince) has killed a number of people at a motel and is to be executed. The film flashes back to the motel on that fateful and fatal night (with continuous rain) and gives us glimpses of the characters and how there is a chain reaction of accidents that gets them into the one place, trapped with floods at each end of the highway.

Once the killings start, the audience has to work hard as to the identity of the killer, especially when the events do not seem to be logical.

Mangold has some of the usual types plus some who are quite different in peril at the motel. However, the one anchor of calm is a former LA cop, played with his usual sincere style by John Cusack. Ray Liotta turns up as a tougher cop, with his prisoner, Jake Busey. Amanda Peet is a prostitute who is on her way home to make a new life. There is a self-centred fading actress, a nice family with a rather quiet son, a newlywed couple and a nervy motel manager.

About two thirds into the film, the audience is given information that is new and changes perspectives on what has happened - and there is a final twist that rather undermines faith in psychologists. It is all done with flair, well acted, plenty of suspense and not too gruesome so that audiences who are not into gory thrillers might enjoy it.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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