The Usual Suspects (1995)

Director: Bryan Singer Writer Christopher McQuarrie.

Starring. Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite, Sizy Amis, Benicio Del Toro. USA. 1h 44m.

First time I saw the Usual Suspects I was lucky enough to see it alongside a piece by Mark Kermode and the film finished with a short from writer Christopher McQuarrie about how he brainstormed the story, not that I needed any more convincing that the film is totally awesome the extra depth really cemented the film as being one of my all-time greatest and one I find myself returning to from time and time again.

Starting with a dark film noir style introduction which is slightly confusing, two silhouetted men talk, light a cigarette, one is injured and the other walks away as an explosion engulfs a ship and the wounded man..  the dark undertones shift to something more gangster as the film opens and builds in two timelines, Verbal (Spacey) has been pulled into a police office to be questioned by the sly agent Kujan (Palminteri), the shifty club footed criminal is forced to give up valuable information before he’s set free, reluctantly he begins to talk but once he gets started he lives up to his name sake and the verbal diarrhea  starts to flow. After some threats from Kujan, the past is unlocked up in audacious little chapters, almost like a 50’s crime comic, it’s slick and witty, and at times it’s on a higher level of brainy than the average movie.

Keyton (Byrne) is a criminal gone straight, after falling for a defence lawyer Edie Finneran (Amis) he’s now a proud businessman, until agent Kujan crashes his dinner with “important clients” and slams him in the cells as a suspect for an armoured truck heist, after “that” iconic line up scene he gets bashed in the interrogation room and chucked into the cells, here a plan is hatched by tough guy McManus (Baldwin) everyone is invited but Keyton doesn’t want any of it, but with his reputation in ruins, and Verbal needing him to get in with the gang he soon falls back to his old ways.

hand me the keys you fucking cocksucker

After completing a few heists, *always the last job* the group find themselves tangled up with Keiser Soze, a criminal of such massive statue that he’s almost believed to be an urban criminal legend. Kujan has no idea so Verbal goes into Soze’s dark past in a painfully detailed retelling of the man and how dangerous he can be, a man who’d rather kill his family than  suffer threats, the man who not only went after the people who made him kill his family but killed their families, friends, people who owed them money.. totally annihilation!! And a man who had been offended by everyone in the group and the only way they can save their lives is to do one more jobs for him. He doesn’t turn up and ask them, he sends a emincary, a role perfect for the amazing Postlethwaite, who plays Kobayashi whose accent I still can’t place!? But the men are determined to pull off this final heist, in order to survive.

The film is expertly shot, allowing for some unusual camera angles and is really adaptive for the scene and situation, the camera seems to roll around the characters keeping up with the mood and tempo perfectly. So many of the scenes are are ab libbed and winged as they progress, with a cast so seasoned Singer was able to trust them enough to keep things going.

There are so many cult scenes in the film, the line-up scene, is often re-created in so many different ways in popular media, the final line of the movie from Spacey is found in a range of music, tattoos and is copied into so much media that’s taken on a life of itself. The script is so very clever, it really left a lot of people guessing until the end, and like a corkscrew the film tightens and gets more dangerous and thrilling, as the group pull out all the stops to try and be more brilliant than the best crim in town.

For me the film really has no faults, even after you get the story and know what’s coming there are so many awesome scenes that I can watch forever, it’s a marvellous experiment in storytelling that will never be forgotten.

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

Rating 10/10

ROrdinary Decent Criminal (200), American Heist (2014)
L – Heist Movies
A – The making of the Keiser Soze and other modern film urban legends
5s – Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne,

Post Discussion to come


2 thoughts on “The Usual Suspects (1995)”

  1. Great review – and I agree completely! One of my favorite moments was interviewing the entire cast at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995 – got to see the film well ahead of its release, and I knew when I saw it that it was a classic…

  2. It took me years to watch it, as I thought it was some undercover espionage thing but I had the pleasure of watching it with the director which was a bit odd, felt like i couldn’t scoff at anything but there wasn’t much to scoff at lol .

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