‘The Identical’ — all about blank naievete9/10/2014
Starring: Blake Rayne, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd
A shoe-in for a spot on the worst movies of 2014 list, this poorly constructed slice of filmic propaganda is so unintentionally campy you can’t help but laugh. Atrocious costume designs, anachronistic dialogue, wretched music, and tone-deaf performances are abundant.
The dubious project drags down two otherwise reliable Hollywood B-list actors with it. Remember Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd? Oh, how the nearly mighty have fallen. From the looks of it, you’d never guess that Judd (“Kiss the Girls”) and Liotta (“Goodfellas”) were once hot commodities in Hollywood. Here, Liotta gives such an unbearably hammy performance, in a make-up heavy role that spans roughly 35 years, that you wonder why he isn’t doing community theater in Salinas. If Liotta’s aging process is embarrassing, Judd’s performance, as Liotta’s non-aging Southern wife with the IQ of a child, is plain bizarre.
Screenwriter Howard Klausner must have used a ghostwriter to pen his only previous script, the Clint Eastwood-directed film “Space Cowboys” (2000), because Klausner’s cliché riddled screenplay for “The Identical” is something you’d expect from an underachieving high school student.
Watch as a slimy entertainment manager throws handfuls of cash into the air! Listen to the worst Southern accents you’ve ever heard! Marvel at a plotline so pretentious even a 5-year-old wouldn’t buy it!
The film’s preachy narrative stretches back to the Great Depression. William and Helen Hemsley are a young unemployed Christian couple with more dumb lust than common sense. They follow the Bible’s teachings to “be fruitful and multiply” in spite of the fact that they can’t even feed themselves. The couple’s identical twin offspring present more economic strain than they can handle. A visit to a bible-thumping sermon by reverend Reece Wade (Liotta), an ostensibly Baptist minister with Jewish leanings, plants in William the idea that “it is better to give than to receive.” Reverend Wade underscores the oversimplified ethos of his rote sermon with the over-shared disclosure that he and his wife Louise (Judd) are unable to procreate.
The next day, William and Helen pay a visit to the Reeces with an offer to hand over one of their twin children to appease their dilemma. Oh the transgressive blessings at hand. The Hemsleys conceal their well-meaning deed by claiming the death of their child. They go through the motions of a minister-attended burial, complete with an empty shoebox coffin.
Years pass. Enter Elvis-impersonator and real-life Elvis Presley lookalike Blake Rayne (real name Ryan Pelton) in the dual role of the Hemsley’s separated-at-birth twins Ryan and Drexel. Although minister Reece tries to bring Ryan up to follow in his footsteps as a preacher, Ryan can’t resist the boogie-woogie calling of the devil’s honky-tonks on the outskirts of town. No one seems to notice that Ryan sings exactly like Elvis Presley. Drexel is a successful rock ‘n’ roll recording artist, and Ryan is a talented wannabe who fails to recognize his resemblance to Drexel as anything more than a weird coincidence. Ryan is content to sing along to his brother’s records and perform at local amateur night competitions. Forget about any willing suspension of disbelief; “The Identical” is all about blank naiveté. Even when Ryan and Drexel come (nearly) face to face, neither one calls out their obvious blood relation. CV
Cole Smithey — The Smartest Film Critic in the World — has covered every aspect of world cinema since 1997. His reviews and video essays are archived online at www.ColeSmithey.com.