THE STORY – “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” says con man Kint (Kevin Spacey), drawing a comparison to the most enigmatic criminal of all time, Keyser Soze. Kint attempts to convince the feds that the mythic crime lord not only exists, but is also responsible for drawing Kint and his four partners into a multi-million dollar heist that ended with an explosion in San Pedro Harbor – leaving few survivors.
THE CAST – Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollack, Suzy Amis, Giancarlo Esposito, Beneicio del Toro & Pete Postlethwaite
THE TEAM – Bryan Singer (Director) & Christopher McQuarrie (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 106 Minutes
By Matt Neglia
All Agent Dave Kujan wants is the whole story. By the time “The Usual Suspects” reaches its shocking and devilishly clever final moments he not only gets the entire story but we the audience are more inclined than ever to revisit Bryan Singer’s neo-noir crime story to piece together the whole story ourselves. It’s a twisted and yet, entertaining film due to its colorful cast and perfectly paced storytelling from not only director Bryan Singer but also Christopher McQuarrie’s Academy Award winning script and John Ottman’s brisk editing. Featuring what is quite possibly my favorite ending to a movie of all time, “The Usual Suspects” is certainly a favorite.
“The Usual Suspects” starts off simple enough. There has been a pier explosion in present day California where 27 men have died all for a drug deal where astonishingly there were no drugs to be found. Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) has been granted immunity yet decides to still recount the events to Agent Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) who is hell-bent on pinning the pier incident on ex-cop turned criminal Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne). Verbal’s story starts off with five unrelated yet somehow connected criminals who are thrown together in a police lineup for a bogus charge and once they all get acquainted they start working on jobs together. There’s Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin) who is the tough hot head. There’s his partner of five years, Fred Fenster (Benicio del Toro) who is just as smart as he is downright weird with his unique speech patterns. And there’s Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollack) who is the explosions expert with an attitude. Together with Verbal and Keaton, the five of them make up “The Usual Suspects.”
However, “The Usual Suspects” is nothing usual as Christopher McQuarrie’s script keeps piling on twists, lies, deceit and deception into the mix. Verbal’s story starts to spiral out of control with even more interesting characters including a Californian criminal named Redfoot (Peter Greene) and a mysterious lawyer named Mr. Kobayashi (The late Pete Postlethwaite). Things get even more interesting when the five men realize that their predicament is being orchestrated by a criminal mastermind named Keyser Soze who is referred to by criminals around the world as “The devil himself.” The story may move too quick for some but fret not, for the film’s ending does a pretty decent job of wrapping up many callback moments from Verbal’s story through the use of some sharp editing.
The cast is where this film lives and dies. Without a solid cast to sell these crooked characters, the film would have failed. Kevin Spacey is the star of the show as the weak cripple with a sometimes dark mind, Verbal Kint. The story plays out through his perspective and Spacey gives one of the best performances of his career as the criminal with cerebral palsy. Gabriel Byrne also lends an inner conflict to his character Dean Keaton as a man who is trying to escape his dark past yet somehow can’t seemingly find a clear way to go straight. Stephen Baldwin, Benicio del Toro, and Kevin Pollak add levity to the screenplay’s darkness with some light humor as they spew McQuarrie’s crackling dialogue. And Chazz Palminteri also gives one of his best performances as the driven and smart cop Agent Kujan who will stop at nothing to get to the truth.
With a brilliant and always enjoyable screenplay at the forefront, its great to see director Bryan Singer bringing together an outstanding ensemble cast and a terrific editor, and composer in John Ottman to tell McQuarrie’s skillful and mysterious story about criminals who are unable to move away from their violent past and tendencies. All of this comes together in the film’s final act where we are forced to ask ourselves “Who is Keyser Soze?” The answer may not be apparent at first but I’d like to reference what Kevin Spacey said in his Oscar acceptance speech as to who Keyser Soze was for him: “The person who pulls the strings, the person who manipulates, who hovers over us, who gives us life and breath. For me “Keyser Soze” is Bryan Singer, the director of this film.” Even if you have had the film’s twist ruined for you, I still feel that “The Usual Suspects” is not only worth visiting but also worth revisiting for many years to come.
THE FINAL SCORE