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
Audio Commentary with Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie
Audio Commentary with John Ottman
Keyser Soze: Lie or Legend featurette
Round Up -- Deposing the Usual Suspects
Pursuing the Usual Suspects
Doin't Time with the Usual Suspects
Bryan Singer's Gag Reel
Deleted Scenes -- Hosted by John Ottman
Heisting Cannes with the Usual Suspects -- featurette
Introducing the Usual Suspects -- featurette
Taking Out the Usual Suspects -- Interviews and Outtakes
Bryan Singer introduces Kevin Spacey and Friend
Interview with John Ottman
US Theatrical TV Spots
US Trailer with Introduction by John Ottman
Wait a minute ... five criminals in one lineup? There's something wrong here, right? Right ...
In "The Usual Suspects," not only every line but every gesture, every facial expression and every camera cut counts. Even if you distrust the story being told, you can't exactly pin down everything that's wrong with it. The plot unfolds through the tale extracted from Kint, one of two survivors of a massacre and subsequent explosion on a boat docked in San Pedro Harbor, by U.S. Customs agent David Kujan (Chazz Palminteri). And at the same time as Kint is spinning his yarn, in a nearby hospital the other survivor (badly injured and fresh out of a coma) helps a police sketch artist draw a picture of the mastermind behind the scheme - "the devil," Keyser Söze.
You can watch this movie countless times, and you will still discover new subtleties every single time. Not only will you find that it still makes sense after the story line has been unraveled at the end (which therefore is a plot twist, not a non-sequitur). You'll also discover nuance upon nuance in Kevin Spacey's incredible performance. You'll see that tiny apologetic grin on Todd Hockney's face as attorney Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite) lists a weapons truck heist - the very act which brought them together in the initial lineup, and which they have all come to believe to have been a trumped-up charge - as Hockney's latest sin against Keyser Söze, now forming part of the debt to be repaid by participating in the suicide mission in San Pedro Harbor. And at some point you'll also have figured out all of Fenster's lines (not being a native English speaker, I am relieved to find that I wasn't the only one struggling with them at first) ... although the mumbling is of course part of his character, and is as excellently delivered as every other aspect of Benicio del Toro's acting, his lines are so funny and to the point you almost wish he'd speak more clearly so you wouldn't miss half his punch lines the first time around.
Among a cast of tremendous actors (to name just two, Gabriel Byrne in one of his best performances and Benicio del Toro, deserving much more than just an "also starring" mentioning in the opening credits), Kevin Spacey's star shines brightest. To this day it is a mystery to me how he came to be awarded the Academy Award for Best *Supporting* Actor - the only things the man supports (in fact carries, almost single-handedly) in this movie are Bryan Singer's directing and Christopher McQuarrie's screenplay, and that alone makes him the movie's lead character. But regardless of its title, the award was more than justified, and so was the one for McQuarrie's screenplay. With infinite trust in the audience's ability to pick up on little gestures, looks and inflections of his voice, Kevin Spacey displays all the many aspects of his character at the same time; and even the tenth time around, his performance still holds as true as the first time you watch the movie. Almost expressionless he tells his tale, always seeming to give away just about as much as he has to, and only raising his voice for a pointed (and exquisitely timed) expletive upon first being confronted with the name Keyser Söze, and for a wailing "Why me??" as agent Kujan tries to convince him that his own archenemy, Keaton, has been behind their failed enterprise all along and purposely let him (Kint) live to tell their story.
This is one of those movies which have you quote their many memorable one-liners forever - and not just the one about "the devil's greatest trick." To the extent that it cites other works, those citations pay homage, they don't merely copy - right down to the name of the movie's production company (Blue Parrot/Bad Hat); like the title containing a reference to "Casablanca," the prototype of all films noir (or those made in Hollywood at least). It is one of the best modern examples of the genre and has long since become a cult classic - it's a must in every decent collection.
The plot can never really be explained until you've seen the film. Not for nothing did it win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. But I'll do my best. After an explosion, the the small-time crook Verbal Kint is being questioned. His story is amazing. A group of criminals are rounded up for questioning over a hijacking, the "Usual Suspects" of the title. However, this meeting just gives them an oppurtunity to scheme maliciously together. They embark on a devious plan to rob a crook making use of the crooked police. However they become embroiled in the plots of a master criminal known as Keyser Soze, so mysterious and elusive that no-one has ever seen him. Under the guidance of "Kobayashi", they are directed to a ship and a job for Keyser, who is seemingly infallible, as Verbal says:
"I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze."
In a shock ending that plays wonderfully on the gullibility of an audience to jump to conclusions, events come to a head with lightning-fast realisations. Believe me, you'll be slapping yourself for not seeing it.
The acting quality on show here is of the highest quality. It was the film that first announced Kevin Spacey (American Beauty, L.A. Confidential)onto the scene, who is undoutably one of the most talented actors in modern Hollywood. His portrayal of the crippled Verbal is unbelievably slick. He barely outshines the darkly brilliant Gabriel Bryne (The Enemy of The State), who plays Keaton with finesse. Another superb turn is for Benitio Del Toro (Traffic) as Fenster, who shows here the acting ability that won him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Traffic. Pete Postlewaite is also excellent as the elusive Kobayashi. However, there is no doubt that the most brilliant talent behind this film is that of young director Brian Singer, also known for X-Men. This is a masterpiece that he will probably never better.
As this is Special Edition, you'll be expecting extras, and you get them. It's the 2 disc DVD that the film deserves. Documentarys, outtakes, commentaries, TV spots, trailers, featurettes and deleted scenes. We are also treated to 3 easter eggs, which is the most I've seen on a DVD for a long time. But the creme de la creme is something that we deserve - A Region 2 exclusive feature. About time we got more than the Americans for once!
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