A convict named Malcolm Rivers awaits execution for several vicious murders that took place at an apartment building. Journals belonging to Malcolm were discovered mis-filed in the case evidence, so it was not introduced during the trial. Malcolm's psychiatrist, Dr. Malick, and his defense attorney argue that the evidence was suppressed and move to stay the execution with this additional evidence that Malcolm is legally insane. With this late evidence brought forth, a midnight hearing takes place, to determine if the journal is adequate evidence to grant their motion. Meanwhile, ten strangers find themselves stranded in the middle of a torrential rainstorm at a remote Nevada motel, run by Larry Washington. The group consists of an ex-cop, now limousine driver, Ed Dakota; Caroline Suzanne, an actress popular in the 1980s; Officer Rhodes, who is transporting convicted murderer Robert Maine; Paris Nevada, a prostitute; newlyweds Lou and Ginny; and the York family, George, Alice and their nine-year-old son Timmy who are in crisis because Alice has been struck by Ed's car.
With both ends of the road completely flooded, the group is forced to spend the night at the hotel, but an unidentified killer begins to murder them one by one, with Caroline being the first to be killed. When they go to check the room, they discover Maine has escaped. The group are told to stay together while Ed and Rhodes search for Maine, though Larry sneaks off to steal Caroline's wallet. Ginny becomes increasingly agitated, eventually fleeing to her room. She and Lou argue as he chases after her, but he is stabbed to death while she is hiding in the bathroom. Maine breaks into a darkened building, but when he looks outside he realizes he is in the diner, back at the motel, before being knocked unconscious by Ed and Rhodes. They put Larry in charge of guarding Maine, who eventually sneaks off again and is killed. Larry attempts to escape in his truck, claiming he did not kill anybody; he accidentally runs over George, killing him. At the hearing, the contents of Malcolm's diaries are revealed, indicating Malcolm suffers from an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder, harboring eleven distinct personalities. His journal contains entries written by his different personalities, each with distinct handwriting and writing style, as if they were the personal thoughts of several different people. His defense attorney argues that Malcolm is completely unaware of the crimes for which he is being executed, which is in violation of existing Supreme Court rulings. Dr. Malick is introducing the concept of integrating the personalities of someone with dissociative identity disorder, when Malcolm arrives, strapped into a wheelchair.
At the hotel, the survivors tie Larry up, and he tells them his story - of taking over the hotel after finding the real hotel manager dead, of apparent natural causes, while leaving Vegas broke and desperate. It is discovered that Alice has apparently died from her injuries. A key marked 6 is found by her body, so they check George's body and find the key marked 7 in his pocket, even though they both died from clear accidents. Ginny and Timmy die when the car explodes, but after putting out the fire their bodies are nowhere to be found. Paris, yelling in hysterics at their unknown assailant, says that her birthday is the next week. Larry mentions that his birthday is also next week, on the 10th - Paris, Rhodes and Ed all reveal that is also their birthday. They checked Larry's photocopies of the guests' IDs and confirm that all 11 of them were born on May 10 - which is also Malcolm's birthday, and the day he committed the murders.
Ed 'awakens' to find himself standing in the rain, looking at the hotel from a distance. Paris finds convict-transportation files for both Maine and Rhodes in the police car. A flashback reveals that Rhodes killed the corrections officer transporting him and Maine, putting the officer's body in the trunk, and then assumed his identity. Rhodes attacks Paris, but she is saved by Larry, who is then shot and killed by Rhodes. Believing Rhodes to be the murderous personality, Ed goes after him, and they end up shooting each other fatally, leaving only Paris still alive. When Malick demonstrates that the homicidal personality is dead, Malcolm's execution is stayed and he is placed in a mental institution under Malick's care. In Malcolm's mind, Paris has driven back to her hometown in Frostproof, Florida. As she tends to some soil in her orange grove, she discovers the room 1 motel key, and finds Timmy behind her. Flashbacks reveal that Timmy orchestrated all of the deaths at the motel, and made it appear that he had been killed with Ginny. Timmy kills Paris, while Malcolm strangles Malick, causing the van to swerve off the road and stop before Timmy's voice repeats Malcolm's rhyme.John Cusack as Edward "Ed" Dakota, a limousine driver and a former Los Angeles police officer.
Ray Liotta as Samuel Rhodes, an escaped convict masquerading as the correctional officer who was transporting him and Maine.
Amanda Peet as Paris Nevada, a prostitute leaving Las Vegas to buy a citrus grove in Florida.
Clea DuVall as Ginny Virginia, a superstitious newlywed.
William Lee Scott as Lou Isiana, Ginny's husband.
Rebecca De Mornay as Caroline Suzanne, an '80s Hollywood TV actress chauffeured by Ed.
John Hawkes as Larry Washington, the motel manager.
Leila Kenzle as Alice York, a wife and mother who is injured in a car accident.
John C. McGinley as George York, Alice's husband and Timmy's stepfather.
Bret Loehr as Timothy "Timmy" York, Alice's son and George's stepson.
Jake Busey as Robert Maine, Rhodes' fellow inmate still in his prison jumpsuit.
Pruitt Taylor Vince as Malcolm Rivers, a convicted mass murderer.
Holmes Osborne as Judge Taylor
Frederick Coffin as Detective Varole
Carmen Argenziano as Defense Lawyer
Matt Letscher as Assistant District Attroney
Marshall Bell as District Attroney
Alfred Molina as Dr. Malick, a psychiatrist.
All filming was undertaken in the United States. Some took place in Lancaster, California and other places in Los Angeles County, while the majority was shot on a sound stage at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City.
Angelo Badalamenti was originally signed to score the film, but his music was replaced with a new score by Alan Silvestri (Silvestri had previously replaced Badalamenti on 1991's Shattered).
Identity has a rating of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes out of 169 reviews. It scored 64 out of 100 on Metacritic, indicating a "generally favorable reviews".
Film critic Roger Ebert wrote upon the film's release, "Altogether, there are 10 guests. One by one, they die. Agatha Christie fans will assume that one of them is the murderer—or maybe it's the clerk... I think it is possible that some audience members, employing [my] Law of Economy of Characters, might be able to arrive at the solution slightly before the movie does."
Mick LaSalle of SFGate reported, "At first, Identity seems like nothing more than a pleasing and blatant homage (i.e. rip-off) to the Agatha Christie-style thriller where marooned guests realize that a murderer is in their midst ... we've seen it before. Yet make no mistake. Identity is more than an entertaining thriller. It's a highly original one."
The Village Voice's Dennis Lim wrote of the film's premise, "The premise of the one-rainy-night thriller Identity seems like mothballed Agatha Christie," and of the film's third act twist, "The ultimate cliché of plot-twist implausibility, the crucial revelation is so outlandishly fatuous it might have given Donald Kaufman pause. But there's nothing self-parodic about Identity—the viewer must not only swallow the nullifying third-act bombshell but actually re-engage with the movie on its new, extremely dubious terms."
Brian Mckay of eFilmCritic.com wrote, "This film's cardinal sin was not that it had an engrossing but extremely far-fetched setup to a lackluster resolution—a resolution that probably sounded good during the initial script pitch, but which nobody realized was going to be such a misfire until the production was already at the point of no return. No, what Identity is guilty of most is bad timing—it simply gives away too much, too soon. At about the halfway mark (if not much sooner), the film's big "twist" will finally dawn on you (and if it doesn't, they'll end up coming right out and saying it five minutes later anyway). And once it does, you will no longer care what happens afterward."
Identity opened on April 25, 2003 in the United States and Canada in 2,733 theaters. The film ranked at #1 on its opening weekend, accumulating $16,225,263, with a per theater average of $5,936. The film's five-day gross was $18,677,884.
The film dropped down to #3 on its second weekend, behind newly released X2 and The Lizzie McGuire Movie, accumulating $9,423,662 in a 41.9% drop from its first weekend, and per theater average of $3,448. By its third weekend it dropped down to #4 and made $6,477,585, $2,474 per theater average.
Identity went on to gross $52.1 million in the United States and Canada and $38.1 million overseas. In total, the film has grossed over $90 million worldwide, making it a box office success against its $28 million budget.
The film was nominated for Best Action, Adventure or Thriller Film and Best DVD Special Edition Release at 30th Saturn Awards, but lost to Kill Bill Volume 1 and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, respectively.