The Usual Suspects (1995)

the usual suspects

“One cannot be betrayed if one has no people.”

The Scoop: 1995 R, Directed by Bryan Singer and starring Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollack, Pete Postalthwaite and Kevin Spacey

Tagline: Five criminals. One lineup. No coincidence.

Summary Capsule: Five criminals get involved in intrigue, backstabbing, elaborate heists, and the ultimate mind trip.

Justin’s rating: hehehehe… don’t look over your shoulder… hehehe…

Justin’s review: Kevin Spacey is one of Hollywood’s most unique and underrated actors in our time. I know of few men who have played such versatile roles, from his portrayal as a serial killer (Se7en) to a dysfunctional dad (The Ref) to a showbiz cop (L.A. Confidential) to a grasshopper (A Bug’s Life). He’s sometimes creepy, always masterful, and splendidly cool. But if you’re looking for his best performance, The Usual Suspects seats him in a role that you will be thinking about for weeks.

Spacey plays Verbal Kint, a cripple who’s forced police confession serves as the narration for the story. Suspects starts at the end, then flashes back and forth in time until eventually progressing on a linear course. I wouldn’t dream of giving away the plot, since this is one of two movies I’ve seen in the past few years that I could not predict. I will say that it does involve five criminals that get mixed up with a most ruthless man named Keyser Soze and a plot to earn $81 million dollars. It’s not exactly a thriller, not exactly a mystery, but it’ll leave you grinnin’ ear to ear in awe of its sheer brilliance.

All of the roles are excellent, especially Pete Postlethwaite as Soze’s lawyer and Benicio Del Toro as the unintelligible Fred Fenster. They spark as the plot deepens, and your loyalties are divided. In the end, you don’t know who to trust in your own heart — and that’s the way it should be.

The Usual Suspects is not your usual movie. But there is a sufficient amount of action to sate your basic slug of a boyfriend, and smarts enough to confound your sorority sisters. This film gets one of my highest recommendations; when I worked as a video clerk, I’d press this movie on my customers more than any other flick. So I say to you now: your life is not complete unless you enter the world of The Usual Suspects.

PoolMan’s rating: *I* am Keyser Soze! (…’s brother’s neighbour’s dentist’s son)

PoolMan’s review: I had the unthinkable happen to me before I sat down to this movie. No, no, not another randomly timed underwear show by Justin. I learned how The Usual Suspects ended. I don’t remember how, I don’t remember where, but somewhere along the line, I accidentally read the surprise ending before I saw Suspects. I can’t really tell you whether that takes away from this awesome flick (not having a point of reference), but I can tell you, even if it does, it’s got enough in the bank to write a cheque that big and still be extremely entertaining.

It came up in our new Forum the other day that if we’re going to print stuff with spoilers in it, we should title it with SPOILER ALERT in big letters at the top. I personally agree with this. I like to read movie reviews as much as anyone else, but just like trailers, they shouldn’t give everything away before I’ve even paid for the ticket! Imagine having seen (SPOILER ALERT HERE) The Sixth Sense and knowing Bruce Willis’ big secret? Or for me (ANOTHER SPOILER, LOOKOUT!), half the fun of The Matrix was the second viewing, knowing the conspiracy the whole way through. Anyways, sermon over. The only point I’m trying to make is that Suspects is absolutely worth seeing if you know how it ends; it’s still a great cop drama/action/mystery movie, even with the big twist out of the way.

So with the foreknowledge (is that a word? Dna, back me up!) of the big surprise ending, I found myself asking not “Who is Keyser Soze?” (which is repeated with maddening frequency towards the end), but “Who are all these guys?”. It’s not character evolution on any Darwinian scale, but I was frequently taken aback by the colourful characters that live in Soze’s world. A reformed criminal turned restauranteur. A crippled con man. A mildly insane gunman. A totally self absorbed dink. An unintelligible wierdo who frequently reminded me of a mumbly version of Red Dwarf’s Cat. The characters had depth to them, a surprising amount considering the cop mystery framework this movie is housed in.

And that’s what really surprised me all through The Usual Suspects. Every element was pretty standard for a police movie, but through strong performances from Kevin Spacey and Gabriel Byrne, and a seriously intriguing ending that’ll have you watching again for clues, the total was far greater than the sum of its parts. And hey, this marks the first time I’ve found a Baldwin Brother even remotely watchable!

There’s no reason to miss this if you haven’t seen it already. And if you have, there’s plenty of good reasons to see it again. Take it from someone who never saw it for the first time.

Intermission!

  • The order that the personal packages are given to everyone in the pool room is the same order in which the characters die
  • The landing plane at the airport loses two engines between cuts.
  • The title, The Usual Suspects refers to the film Casablanca, when Captain Louis Renault says, “Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.” Also, the line-up scene was scripted as a serious scene, but after a full day of filming takes where the actors couldn’t keep a straight face, director Bryan Singer decided to use the funniest takes.

Groovy Quotes

Keaton: His name is Verbal. Verbal Kint.
McManus: Verbal?
Keaton: Yeah.
Verbal: Roger, really. People say I talk too much.
Hockney: Yeah, I was just about to tell you to shut up.

Cop: I can put you in Queens on the night of the hijacking.
Hockney: Really? I live in Queens, did you put that together yourself, Einstein? Got a team of monkeys working around the clock on this?

Kobayashi: One cannot be betrayed if one has no people.

Verbal Kint: Keaton once said, “I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him.” Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.

[Counting victims as he snipes at them.]
McManus: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7… Oswald was a fag.

Verbal Kint: How do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?

(talking about being strip searched)
Fenster: I had a guy’s finger up my a****** tonight.
Hockney: Is it Friday already?

Kujan: Do you know a dealer named Ruby Deamer, Verbal?
Kint: Do you know a religious guy named John Paul?

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