Bryan Singer's film noir The Usual Suspects
casts a mesmerising spell, with the plot luring the viewer into ever-deeper and darker places. According to director, Singer, the premise for the film evolved from a magazine article. What does the phrase "usual suspects" actually mean, who are they and what happens when you probe their identity? Here, they are five expert criminals and a crippled con man in a line-up. The story, told via flashbacks, interrogation scenes and explosive sequences of a heist gone wrong, is a labyrinth of sub-plots and red herrings.
Kevin Spacey won a best supporting actor Oscar for his intriguing, blank-eyed turn as the crippled "Verbal" Kint. But Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, Stephen Baldwin and Benicio del Toro are equally fascinating as the mismatched misfits, creating hinterlands for their characters in a single gesture. Chazz Palminteri as the special agent is our main ally in solving the puzzle, but it's really a case of the blind leading the blind. Pete Postlethwaite's bizarre accent, as the sinister legal agent Kobayashi, adds its own layer of mystery to a film that earns cult status entirely on its own merits.
On the DVD: this is a dazzling two-disc set which will both please Usual Suspects aficionados and entice the uninitiated. The film itself is presented in widescreen format. The Dolby Digital surround sound quality throbs with tension so that you sense the dialogue and John Ottman's excellent, suspenseful music with your nerve endings rather than just experiencing them aurally. The original cinematic experience comes forcefully into your living room. Numerous extras include a fascinating director/screenwriter commentary (if you haven't seen the film yet, make sure this is turned off or it will wreck the suspense) and endless featurettes, each adding a layer of understanding to the film through observations from the actors, director and writer. A package that sucks you in, blows you out in pieces and still has you coming back for more, this is what special edition DVDs are all about. --Piers Ford
DVD MGM/UA, 5050070007862, 1995 Region 2 PAL Special Edition