1995 – The Usual Suspects

by Alan Rapp on August 17, 2015

in Home Video

  • Title: The Usual Suspects
  • IMDb: link

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

The Usual SuspectsOn or around this date 20 years ago The Usual Suspects hit theaters for the first time. Written by Christopher McQuarrie (who recently gave us the best Mission: Impossible movie yet) and directed by Bryan Singer (who has struggled to make a film even half as good ever since), The Usual Suspects introduces us five criminals through a series of flashbacks which recount the events which brought them all together in a police line-up and what then led them to the docks a fateful night leaving only a single member of the group alive to tell the tale.

Despite the fact that the film hinges on reveal and twist ending, it works as well on the twelfth viewing as it does the first. Kevin Spacey stars as Verbal Kent (a role that would earn him an Academy Award and make him a star) who recounts the events of the crew’s movements to Customs Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) while attempting to keep certain facts about the boat and the mythical Keyser Soze from coming to light. The definition of an unreliable narrator, Verbal’s accounts are all Kujan and the audience are given to deduce the truth for themselves.

Along with Verbal, a crippled middling crook, the rest of the crew includes former police officer turned criminal mastermind an struggling restaurateur Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), the loudmouth duo of McManus (Stephen Baldwin) and Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), and Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak). Thrown together by chance (or the puppet strings of Keyser Soze), the five are thrown in a police line-up together concerning the theft of a shipment of guns. What follows, in-between the scenes of Verbal talking with Kujan, are the crook’s recounting of the jobs the crew pulled and what led them to make a suicide run on a freighter controlled by the Argentinian mob.

The movie takes a turn with the discovery of another survivor of the massacre and the arrival of FBI Agent Jack Baer (Giancarlo Esposito) at the precinct with questions for Verbal concerning Keyser Soze. Although I guessed the film’s ending during my first viewing it didn’t dismiss my enjoyment or appreciation of the work Singer and McQuarrie took to craft the tale. What makes The Usual Suspects both brilliant and infuriating is the fact that in the end we’re left with no more answers than we had in the beginning. To be sure there are small nuggets of Verbal’s story that might be true, but just how much is anyone’s guess given his is the sole viewpoint from which every fact in the movie is presented.

The Usual Suspects

Although it’s not normally something you’d ever say about a movie involving Stephen Baldiwn, The Usual Suspects is a perfect film. Well-cast, superbly acted, and wonderfully told, The Usual Suspects is great storytelling that leaves us wanting more. How much of Keyser Soze is true? Just who is Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite) and what was his actual interaction with the group? If Redfoot (Peter Greene) was a complete invention by Verbal how did the group get into the trouble that led them to the boat? Were Keaton’s feelings for Edie (Suzy Amis) real or an act as Kujan believes? And if Kujan hadn’t admitted his hard-on for Keaton early on would Verbal still painted a story that allowed the detective to surmise the facts to back-up his own assumptions?

Over the years the film has been released on DVD and Blu-ray several times. While the Blu-ray version have been serious lacking in any extras other than the movie’s trailer, the DVD Special Edition includes deleted scenes, a gag reel, easter eggs, TV spots, two separate audio commentaries, an introduction from Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, and a collection of featurettes on Keyser Soze, the characters of the film, and the movie’s premiere at Cannes.

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