Friday, November 11, 2011

#452. The Usual Suspects (1995)

Directed By: Bryan Singer

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri

Tag line: "The truth is always in the last place you look"

Trivia:  Christopher McQuarrie's inspiration for the character of Keyser Soze was a real-life murderer by the name of John List, who murdered his family and then disappeared for 17 years

In 1995’s The Usual Suspects, director Bryan Singer pulls off a minor miracle, creating a character so ruthless that the mere mention of his name causes hardened criminals to break out in a cold sweat. The character in question, Keyser Soze, hangs heavy over the entire picture, despite the fact not a single person in the movie has actually seen him. There’s even an outside chance that Keyser Soze doesn’t exist at all. 

Petty thief Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) is the sole survivor of a Los Angeles dockside explosion, the scene of a massive drug deal gone very wrong. He’s arrested and taken in for questioning, which leads to a rather harsh interrogation at the hands of detective Dave Cujan (Chazz Palminteri). 

Verbal tells Cujan it all started five days earlier, when he was picked up by the cops and placed in a lineup with four other criminals; Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro) and Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak). All five were then approached by a lawyer named Kobayashi (Peter Postlethwaite), who claimed to represent Keyser Soze, the most notorious name in the underworld. According to Verbal, it was the elusive Soze who ordered them to carry out the job on the docks, but is he telling the truth, or simply feeding the cops a fairy tale? 

Keyser Soze will go down as one of the great movie villains of all time, though we never see him in action. Then again, who needs visual proof when you have a legend this awesome to back you up? The police have heard the name Keyser Soze before, but believe he's little more than a thief’s version of the boogeyman. Yet for the five main characters at the heart of The Usual Suspects, Keyser Soze is all too real. He knows who they are, and has threatened their nearest and dearest if they don’t do exactly as he says. Director Singer builds an aura of mystery around Keyser Soze, providing dreamlike flashbacks of his life, including a very tense, violent showdown with the Hungarian mob, after which Soze allegedly disappeared, never to be heard from again. That is, until now. 

Crime films heavy on violence are rarely singled out at awards time, but The Usual Suspects had something special going for it: Kevin Spacey, who plays the character of motor mouth Verbal Kint to perfection (the performance won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). The entire story is told from Kint's perspective, and though he claims it's all the Gospel truth, there's really no way to be sure. Verbal even delivers the film’s greatest line, one of those bits of dialogue destined to be remembered for years to come. When Cujan tells Verbal he doesn't think Keyser Soze is real, Verbal assures the detective he is. “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled”, he says, “is convincing the world he doesn’t exist”. 

That’s a great line. And The Usual Suspects is a great movie.


kim the hippie said...

I will wholeheartedly agree with you that The Usual Suspects IS a great film.

DVD Infatuation said...

Kim: Thanks for stopping by, and yes, I LOVE this movie! The performances are superb, and it twists and turns so brilliantly from start to finish that you don't dare look away for a moment.

I appreciate the comment. Take care, and I'll see you over on Twitter!

Anonymous said...

Blew me away when I first saw it and it sits proudly in my top five today. A film you can find hidden meanings and readings in if you look. The gold watch for example or how much is Verbal actually lying? I feel like watching it now.

DVD Infatuation said...

@talltalesshortparagraphs: This is one I can also watch over and over again. and yes, I always find something new every time I see it.

Thanks for the comment, and my apologies for the late reply.