Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Usual Suspects

Year: 1995
Running time: 106 minutes
Certificate: 18
Language: English
Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Kevin Pollack, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite

The Usual Suspects is one of those films that has a plot so layered, so intricate, delivered so beautifully that it's just a joy to lose yourself in its twists and turns. It's no surprise that multiple viewings are rewarded, as new little things that you missed last time round are revealed.

McManus doesn't take kindly to Kobayashi's threats.
Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey) is one of two survivors of an explosion on a boat that left 27 corpses behind. The other is dying of his injuries in a hospital bed. In return for immunity, the small-time con-man agrees to recount events leading up to the explosion to cop David Kujan (Chazz Palminteri). The plot then unfolds in flashback interspersed with scenes in Kujan's cramped office and Kint's narration.

Five cons are put together in a line up: Hockney (Kevin Pollack), McManus (Stephen Baldwin) & Fenster (Benicio del Toro), corrupt cop Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) and Kint. It turns out none of them appear to have been involved in the crime for which they were brought in, so they decide to indulge in a little criminal activity together to stick it to the cops, as Kint says at one point, "A little 'fuck you' from the five of us". Before long they meet attorney Kobayashi (the late and very great Pete Postlethwaite), acting for legendary crime lord Keyser Soze, whose reputation is so frightening even hardened cons like Keaton and co get a serious case of the willies. It turns out one of them did something to annoy Soze sometime in the past and now they all have to make it up to him lest Bad Things Happen.

Events get pretty convoluted and if you miss a few moments of dialogue, you’ll probably have to go back and listen again, or you may well be lost for the rest of the film. That sounds like a bad thing, but it really isn't. The thickly layered plot unfolds beautifully, and there's nothing wrong with having to pay attention while watching a film every once in a while. And pay attention you must. Even Gabriel Byrne was sure that he was Keyser Soze through the entirety of filming, and he ain’t stupid.

Master story teller, Verbal Kint.

Every line of every scene is masterfully delivered under Bryan Singers’ direction, but it’s particularly Kevin Spacey who steals the show as Kint, guiding us through the twisting plot. Spacey, to be fair, pretty much steals every show he’s in.

There are many films that have twist endings, but few can compare with the jaw-on-floor factor at the climax of this complicated story. It didn’t make big waves when it was released, but has since become an all time favourite through word of mouth, like both Fight Club and The Shawshank Redemption.

Keep up with the story and you will be rewarded. Then watch it again knowing how it ends and see every elaborate detail from a new perspective. Marvellous, although the swearing is sometimes a bit much.

Score: 8/10

Ian at Empire is a big fan, as is Peter at Rolling Stone.