on August 6, 2001
"Round up the usual suspects." And so they do - and ending up in the lineup are career criminals Michael McManus, Fred Fenster and Todd Hockney (Stephen Baldwin, Benicio del Toro and Kevin Pollack), ex-cop gone bad gone good again Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) and small-time con man Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey).
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. (Just look at how many reviewers on this site alone are quoting 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.
Memento (Widescreen Two-Disc Limited Edition)
Seven (New Line Platinum Series)
on April 25, 2001
The Usual Suspects is one of the finest films I've ever seen. It is peppered with magnificent performances, excellent direction, and a brilliant script(Which incidentally won the Oscar for Best Screenplay). Director Bryan Singer molds a tight and entertaining tale of five men, falsely brought in on charges of a stolen vehicle, then deciding to join forces and commit more crimes. What transgresses is a story of deceit, corruption and murder. Not only is the tale incredibly gripping, it is also downright hilarious at some points, making it such an enjoyable film. Kevin Spacey delivers an amazing performance as Verbal Kint, a scam artist cripple. Gabriel Byrne is great as the tough but compassionate Dean Keaton. Kevin Pollack delivers a strong and razor sharp comic relief role as Todd Hockney. One of the most surprisingly fantastic performances comes from Stephen Baldwin, who really packs a punch in this one. Benicio Del Toro gained rave reviews for his role as Fenster in this film , with due cause. Chazz Palminteri is also very intimidating as the cop trying to bring them down. This film won two Oscars, for original screenplay(Christopher McQuarrie, can you believe this was an original?!) and very deservedly for Kevin Spacey and his awesome performance. There is a surprise ending that will knock you off your seat. Sorry, can't give it away. Go out and see it.
on February 25, 2000
Sometimes a movie really surprises you, really blows you away for some reason. I saw "The Usual Suspects" not really expecting anything interesting. Well, I was wrong. Instead I got to see a terrifically exciting movie featuring outstanding acting and a plot twist that actually caught me by surprise.
The plot? Following a bloody shoot-out aboard a ship moored at a Santa Monica pier, the police question a hood by the name of Verbal Kint in an attempt to learn about what happened. We see several different possibilities and the final answer we get is a real surprise.
Typically movies rely upon special effects, left-field plot twists, and brand-name casting to get the job done. "The Usual Suspects" relies on an excellent script, good direction and wonderful acting from people who might not necessarily be household names. Look at this cast- Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollack, Benicio Del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Dan Hedaya, and Pete Postlethwaite. This is some serious acting talent to behold. They all are great, but in particular Gabriel Byrne (Dean Keaton) and Kevin Spacey (Verbal Kint) deliver exceptional performances. Neither man is quite who they seem to be. Spacey won a well-deserved Oscar for his performance in this film.
Director Brian Singer does a brilliant job coaxing terrific acting performances from his cast. This was a tought movie to make and he pulled it off in spades.
Go see "The Usual Suspects" and find out why it is one of my favorite films.
on December 19, 1999
Warning to DVD viewers who have not seen this movie: Do not play the menu screen before watching the movie. The menu shows movie clips in the background, some of which are from near the end of the movie. I don't know who the morons were who created this DVD, but someone should tell them that that the movie is esentially a MYSTERY, and they should probably refrain from showing people the ending before they watch it. This is a great movie, it is a shame that the DVD producers put such little thought into making this DVD.
on April 9, 2012
The Usual Suspects is a great movie, probably one of the best crime-thrillers ever made and a personal favorite of mine. The film itself deserves a 5 star. I bought the The Usual Suspects Blu-ray thinking that all the special features on the Special Edition (standard DVD) would be included on the Blu-ray version. I don't know why I thought that. I guess it just makes sense for the Blu-ray version to include everything on the most advanced edition of the standard DVD plus the feature film on Blu-ray. Evidently, I was wrong because none of the special features on Special Edition of the Usual Suspects is on this Blu-ray version. If you have the Special Edition, you should hold on to it and get this Blu-ray version only for the sake of Blu-ray quality picture and audio. There is also the Blu-ray book version you may want to check out, which is more expensive but may offer special features, extras, etc. missing from this one. This is very plain without any special features.
on August 26, 2009
The film itself is worthy of a very strong five-star rating, but since this Blu-Ray offers nothing beyond the film itself, my rating reflects my disappointment.
While it's fantastic to have one of my favorite films of all time in high definition at last, the extras here are non-existent. Not only did they not do anything special for the Blu-Ray, they didn't even port over the extras from the MGM Special Edition DVD that came out a few years ago, and there's some excellent stuff on that DVD.
Shame on Fox/MGM for this inexcusably-lacking release.
on March 13, 2002
"The Usual Suspects" is one of those movies that simply makes you say "wow." When I first saw this film in the theater, it was only because the movie that my wife and I wanted to see was sold out. Without knowing anything about it -- not a word -- we bought our tickets and headed into the auditorium. Little did I know that within the next two hours I would be witness to one of the finest pieces of moviemaking ever created.
Bryan Singer's wonderful direction and Chris McQuarrie's story are flawless. The movie engrosses from start to one-whopping-of-a finish and, like you've probably already heard, will make you want to see it again. The characters are memorable, with Benecio del Toro's and Steven Baldwin's roles really standing out. And Kevin Spacey, as in everything he does, is masterful.
When the film was first released on DVD, there were the "usual" extras, but now, finally, the masterpiece has been given the treatment it so rightfully deserves, with deleted scenes, better commentary, high-def transfer, and a whole truckload of stuff that fans of the movie -- and film buffs in general -- will cherish. A "Special Edition" was in order, and now, it's here.
"The Usual Suspects" is a movie worthy of your time. This DVD will see to that -- I can guarantee it.
on October 26, 1999
I think it can safely be said that I have rarely been so impressed with a movie. Everything about this movie meshes together perfectly. From the first strings of John Ottman's absoloutely haunting score to the the incredible script and the flawless (and I mean flawless!!) performances by all five of the "suspects". Foremost by Kevin Spacey who after this movie became my favourite actor. Amazing support from Chazz Palminteri as the Customs Officer investigating the puzzling crime. This movie keeps you guessing making you come to conclusions that you think are unshakable and then destroying them as the film unravels. So you keep changing your conclusions trying to decide who is who and what is going on. The closer you get to the end the more firmly you believe you are right. Then in the last minutes of the film it doesn't matter what you thought (even if you were right) the movie makes you see that you have to look beyond the obvious or even the not so obvious. Like everyone says the ending is a complete shocker to everybody (in one form or another). It redifines the way you think. I never get tired of watching this movie, there is always something new to appreciate. Reflecting on the minor details, actions and even the dialogue (some of those one liners are destined to become - if they aren't already - classics) will make the ending make even more sense and that much more incredible. As to the critics who claim that the ending blows holes in the rest of the movie and the plot, I say they're mistaken. Watch and listen carefully, everything happens for a reason the ending doesn't change the story, it defines it. What can I say? This movie immerses you making you use all your senses and perceptions...it chills you with its grittiness it warms you with its offbeat humor and then gives you goosebumps in the end. That's why this isn't just a movie...its an experience!!!
on December 25, 1999
I'm not going to both reviewing the movie. I'm sure you've all seen it, and we all know it's wonderful; one of very few perfect films. The 4 star rating is only because of the quality of the disc.
Why do we get such a poor quality transition to DVD. There are too many moments, especially the dark scenes, where it looks like you're watching a trailer downloaded from the internet, the digitisis it shows. And why isn't the widescreen version enhanced for widescreen TV's. Instead of, like on the better discs, where you can stretch the image you have too zoom in, therefore decreasing the picture quality more. And, OK, the commentary is very interesting, but they keep going on about these great outtakes they had, but they're not on the disc. I'm happy I bought this film on DVD, just because it is such a great film. But, like the Seven DVD, it is one that I will probably have to buy again when a new, more feature packed, edition comes along. So, if you can wait I would suggest you do, because there is surely going to be another edition on its way some time soon.
on April 7, 2002
By now everyone knows "The Usual Suspects" so I won't comment on the film, just this MGM Special Edition; and it is a prime example of just how well these can be done. As I said in the headline, this is worthy of the Criterion Collection but at a very affordable price.
Side One has both the widescreen and P/S formated versions (although who still wants to watch a cropped film with pan&scan camera movements the director never made is beyond me). The transfer is high-definition with superb picture quality augmented by 5.1 Stereo Surround Sound. This film on this DVD looks better than when it was on the big screen. This side also features two running commentaries: the one by director Singer and screenwriter McQuarrie is the same one on the first "Suspects" DVD which was taken from a special limited edition VHS (Letterboxed film, same plus commentary, and a third box of "collectables". I think I was the only one who bought this!) The second commentary of by John Ottman, the editor and composer, and this one is a revelation to anyone who is interested in filmmaking, specifically "putting the film together after the finished shoot": editing and scoring. After my initial viewing of the film I really didn't think I could sit through it again right away, especially with the incredible dialogue subdued. But after listening to Ottman for five minutes, his enthusiasm became contagious and I was hooked. There is plenty here that "Suspects" fans will appreciate.
Side Two has all of the extras and there are plenty of them. Two half-hour documentaries, ("Pursuing the 'Suspects'" and "Doing Time with the 'Suspects'") with the actors, Singer and Ottman. (I guess McQuarrie felt he did his part with the original commentary.) A twenty-minute documentary on "Keyser Sose: Lie or Legend" which is funny and informative. Five deleted scenes introduced by Ottman (but it is easy to see why they were deleted) totalling ten minutes. Add ten minutes of trailers, TV spots, a seven minute gag reel introduced by Singer and some special "Easter Eggs" which I plan look for today (and probably watch the film again!) and you'll know everything you've wanted to know about "Suspects" and Mr. Sose.
There is finally some deserved praise for cinematographer, Tom Sigel, who made this "$4 million dollar production look like a $50 million film." Ottman, Singer and Gabriel Byrne also lament how this film, basically a rogue, independent production, could not be made today with studios rejecting originality and artists' visions in lieu of boilerplate plotlines, sequel-itis, and adapting films to their perception of what an audience wants after multiple pre-screenings. Byrne justly calls these "MacMovies" and I can't think of a more apt term.
Congratulations MGM for elevating your standards on Special Editions. This one was worth waiting for and delivered more than what was expected.