The Usual Suspects

“The Usual Suspects” Review


Kevin Spacey…………………Verbal Klint
Chazz Palminteri……………..Dave Kujan
Gabriel Byrne…………………Dean Keaton


Director……………………….Bryan Singer
Producers…………………….Bryan Singer, Michael McDonnell
Writer………………………….Christopher McQuarrie

“The Usual Suspects” can really start getting away from you if you don’t pay attention. But if you’re focused, this time-skipping, seemingly disjointed suspense thriller will have you begging for more. That’s what happened with me, anyway.

The story is told through the eyes of Verbal Klint (played brilliantly by Kevin Spacey). Verbal sits in a police office, and is interrogated by Dave Kujan (Palminteri) – a cop – about the events leading up to the explosion of a ship at the harbour just two days ago. Verbal then begins to tell the story of the 5 ‘usual suspects,’ and how the events unfolded.

And from this moment, the movie starts skipping timelines. At times, the movie shows Verbal talking to Kujan, and at other times, it depicts the scenes that Verbal is describing to Kujan. Because the story is told through flashbacks, but also cuts to the present day, the film can get confusing. And add to that the fact that Verbal is an unreliable narrator, and we have all the recipes for a brain-twisting thriller. And boy does Bryan Singer deliver with one of the best films of the ‘90s.

The plot revolves around 5 criminals, the ‘usual suspects,’ who are seen in a line-up at the start of the film, where several guns have been hijacked, and the police are trying to find out which of the 5 it is. But no one budges, and the police are forced to let them go. But while they are awaiting their release from the police, the five begin to talk, and eventually create a plan for an emerald heist.

This was all in the past, by the way. Verbal sits in the cop’s office, and recalls this story. And as he tells the story, he talks of how the five carry out their plans, and the people they meet. Along the way, they hear of a legendary criminal, Keyser Soze, a man that is so shrouded in mystery that no one has seen him for close to two decades. Or at least, no one has lived to talk about it. But the myths that have been told about him are so terrifying, that even that hardest of criminals fear him.

The story of Soze looms larger and larger, and gradually becomes more important, until at one point, it becomes the main part of the plot. Most movie viewers will immediately know that Soze will have a part to play in the climax of the story, but no one would expect what Singer gives us. The film’s fantastic conclusion has to be the greatest movie ending I have ever seen, and I have seen many a great ending. ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ and ‘The Sixth Sense’ come close, but nothing has yet managed to match the conclusion of ‘The Usual Suspects.’

But the movie doesn’t stand simply on its conclusion. The rest of the plot is completely engaging and riveting; however, if a viewer doesn’t pay attention to the details, he may find himself losing the plot, and in this film, the moment you lose the grasp of the story, you fall behind, and you’ll never catch up. It is in this sense that the movie really makes you think, and always manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, even while your mind checks and double-checks everything you see. Also, as Verbal is an unreliable narrator, we are constantly kept guessing as to what is the “truth” and what is “real.”

The acting in this film is fantastic. Stepehen Baldwin brilliantly portrays a criminal with a maniacal bend. Benicio Del Toro and Kevin Pollak are also very good, with Del Toro providing some of the laughs that are strewn across this film. Of the supporting roles though, Gabriel Byrne has to be the best, as the hardened con man. He embodies his role completely, and is magnificent as Dean Keaton. However, the lead character, Verbal Klint, played by Spacey, has to be the stand-out performer of an already outstanding cast. His portrayal of a cowardly, yet strangely unbreakable criminal is one of Spacey’s best roles to date, although he is an incredible actor with other fine pieces like ‘American Beauty’ and ‘L.A. Confidential.’ This is probably why he got an Oscar for his role as Klint; he deserved every bit of it.

‘The Usual Suspects’ is not a normal movie by any stretch of imagination. Its winding time structure, and the fact that we are constantly kept guessing at both what will happen next, and what is real or not, makes it one of the most thought-provoking movies of the last two decades. Its amazing conclusion is just one cog in the wheel in Bryan Singer’s masterpiece. This film deserves every bit of critical acclaim it has got, and more. This is easily in my top 10 favourite films of all-time; so if you haven’t seen it yet, go and watch it in any way possible.