The Usual Suspects (1995)

“The greatest trick the devil have ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist, and like that... he's gone.”“The greatest trick the devil have ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist, and like that... he's gone.”

“The greatest trick the devil have ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist, and like that… he’s gone.”

There are those who launch into full conspiracy mode when legendary figures are brought up. The yeti, bigfoot, and Keyser Söze are but a few. The legends are vast, and the tales are tall but there are those who fully believe these beings exist. So much so that intricate stories are formed that are to be believed at first glance but once you dig deeper into the fables you may find out the truth isn’t as far-fetched as one might say. Like Reservoir Dogs that came before it, The Usual Suspects is a crime story unlike any other. 

Armed with an impressive ensemble cast of criminals, the shrouded mystery of who this Hungarian gangster is will have you questioning every decision and left turn the film goes in. The screenplay written by Christopher McQuarrie weaves a story that can grab your attention from the moment the opening scene finishes to when the credits roll. Five criminals are taken into police custody for a truck hijacking none have committed. In the police lineup are Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint (Kevin Spacey), Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), & Todd Hockey (Kevin Pollak). 

The story is told as a flashback by Verbal while he is in police custody. He’s interrogated by Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) where the two partake in a cat and mouse game of the events leading up to the heist of a $91 million score that left 27 dead including the suspects. The conversation ebbs and flows in each direction giving each character the high ground which keeps the scenes compelling. It’s one of those films that during the first viewing things might get confusing if you’re not fully invested or on board with what director Bryan Singer is mapping out. There are so many different plot points to keep track of that can take you out of the film leaving you to play catch up, but Singer does more than enough to guide you along the way.

“First day on the job, you know what I learned? How to spot a murderer. Let’s say you arrest three guys for the same killing. You put them all in jail overnight. The next morning, whoever’s sleeping is your man. You see, if you’re guilty, you know you’re caught, you get some rest, you let your guard down.”

It’s not so much as handholding it’s the fact that Singer makes the screenplay feel simplistic in its overly complex storyline even though majority of the story happens in the past. It just so happens these characters we are introduced to are intriguing that you can’t help feeling a connection to them. Part of that is the outstanding writing while the other part comes from the stellar performances from the suspects themselves. A story so complex like this doesn’t work if its characters are one dimensional. 

This film thrives and succeeds because of the ensemble; it’s one of the central points of the film. Verbal in particular – even though these are hardened criminals you can’t help but feel some type of sympathy toward him. Spacey is incredible from his disability to his tone in the way he speaks. He’s smart but the genius is that he doesn’t give too much away; Verbal is the type of criminal that is five steps ahead of everyone in the room. That’s not to take away from everyone else, Spacey commands the screen that earned him an academy award for best supporting actor. 

The Usual Suspects is one of those films that will always be famous if you saw it or not. The police lineup scene is easily recognizable as well as the question “Who is Keyser Soze?” is he a man or myth? Does he exist? There are so many unpredictable twists that it’s hard to guess who Soze is at first glance so when the twist is finally revealed, its completely satisfying. That’s how you know you’re watching a well-crafted mystery film. Everything can surprise you even if a character says what the twist is. You’ll still sit there in awe of what you just witnessed.

“One cannot be betrayed if one has no people.”

Even when the flashbacks introduce new characters including the other survivor of the boat explosion or FBI agent Jack Baer (Giancarlo Esposito) or Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite) nothing gets lost in translation. The film can carry the extra weight of the story and not lose a step.   

For a thriller, The Usual Suspects has a quick pace but has the effect of a slow burn. Again, that is largely due to the screenplay which won McQuarrie the academy award for best screenplay. Honestly, there is nothing overly critical about this film – it’s editing, and score are top notch paired with the excellent direction and misdirection the story tells. One viewing is enough but a second will help even further catching things that fall through the cracks from the first viewing. The Usual Suspects should be looked at as the standard for these mystery films and it’s easy to spot where and how other directors got their inspiration from this film.

Overall, The Usual Suspects is a masterpiece in storytelling. Performances alone, this film is compelling and will sink it’s hooks in you and not let go. It’s a fascinatingly complex story that doesn’t slow down or thinks its viewers won’t understand its plot. There are no flaws to be found in this dialogue heavy story. If I were to rate The Usual Suspects, I’d rate it a 5 out of 5.

So, tell me guys, have you seen The Usual Suspects and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

The Usual Suspects is directed by Bryan Singer is Rated R and has an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Usual Suspects was released on August 16, 1995 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 48 minutes. The Usual Suspects can be purchased on Retailers such as iTunes, Google, & Vudu.

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*I do not own these photos used in this article; all rights reserved to the copyright holder*

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