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The Usual Suspects
1995 - R - 106 Mins.
Director: Bryan Singer
Written By: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollack, Benicio Del Toro, Chazz Palimenteri, and Kevin Spacey as Verbal Kint
Review by: John Ulmer
   
In the beginning of "The Usual Suspects," a man is killed on the deck of a ship, and suddenly an explosion completely tears apart the docked ship. Flash forward to the next day. Dave Kujan (Chazz Palimenteri) is forcing a statement out of the only surviver of the explosion, Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey, in the role that made him a star). Verbal recalls the last few weeks to Dave, who listens intently.

We start when five criminals are brought in for a line-up. There's McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollack), and Verbal Kint. While they are being held in prison, the five men all agree that the police just need someone to pin the crime they are suspected of on someone. They all agree to plan revenge by forming a league of crime...

Lotta stuff happens, next we know a legendary criminal named Keizer Soze (whose name reminds me of a type of food) has the five men under his control. He makes them steal drugs off a docked ship, and as we see in the beginning, the men all die save Verbal. Hmm, who could Keizer Soze be? How did all the people die? Who is Lara Croft? Oops, wrong tagline.

"The Usual Suspects" is a very good film, but not one of my favorites. It's extremely catchy, brutal, etc., but comes across slightly shallow. The ending, though surprising, doesn't really click together as well as some other films with surprises. I wasn't confused by the ending, I understood it, I just thought it was a bit shallow compared to some other flicks.

MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD!

In the end we find out Kevin Spacey is Keizer Soze...I think...or is he Soze's henchman? Or is Soze just a legend? It's open to debate. But what makes it a bit more shallow from other films is that Verbal Kint is the one who tells this long story to Dave Kujan, and assumably he made most of it up because he was the criminal all along and had to cover himself up...so there's no real "wow!" element. If Verbal made up the story and turns out to be the man behind the killings, well, it's just a bit shallow as compared to some other films. We are expected to be amazed that he is Soze, but if the tale he told Kujan and us was for the most part a lie, then the fact that he was Soze all along isn't quite as amazing...umm...do you understand what I'm saying?

But I'm not saying I dislike this movie. In fact, that's far from it. I really enjoyed this flick. It's terrific. Great performances by the entire cast, especially Spacey, who won an Oscar for his role. Even Stephen Baldwin was good in this movie!

"The Usual Suspects" is a lot like "Basic," a film starring John Travolta. There are a lot of plot twists, but the duration of the film is a bunch of lies, and many of the "twists" don't make sense, and are there simply to confuse the audience into thinking something else. Behind all the gloss there isn't a whole lot there. But "The Usual Suspects" is still a great film, and though the end is slightly shallow, and the duration of the film is an excuse for the ending, it's still surprising and effective. And unlike "Basic" which dragged on for over two hours, "The Usual Suspects" knows when to stop its banter and get to the point.

Effective filmmaking, but slightly overrated and shallow.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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