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The Usual Suspects (DVD) Review
Winner of two Academy Awards including Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Kevin Spacey), The Usual Suspects is not only one of the most intriguing films of the 1990s, but has built quite a cult following as well. With a parade of top-grade actors rounding out the cast, the film deploys a high level of suspense and attempts to keep its audience in limbo until its very last moments. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Christopher McQuarrie), The Usual Suspects is packed with an abundance of quotable one-liners and memorable scenes.
The Usual Suspects follows an unusual week in the lives of five criminals who team together for a big score. Following a waterfront explosion and the discovery of numerous dead bodies, the police take Roger “Verbal” Kint (Kevin Spacey) into custody for questioning. A cripple, the eyewitness tells his story to US Customs Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) during an interrogation that runs the length of the entire film.
Various flashback scenes tell the story of what happened in the week leading up to the massacre… Several months earlier, a truck was hijacked. Hoping to catch the true culprit, the local authorities round up “the usual suspects” for questioning. Among them are Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), a former criminal turned legitimate; Mike McManus (Stephen Baldwin), a sharp shooter with his own criminal background; Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), a street wise thief with a long rap sheet; and Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak), a petty thief with his own track record of criminal activity. All four are gathered together in a lineup with Verbal Kint, a known petty criminal in his own right.
Hoping one of the suspects will crack, the lineup ends up bringing the men together for a new criminal enterprise. Keaton exhibits reluctance due to his recent love affair with a powerful attorney and his desire to leave the criminal life behind, but he eventually caves. Following their initial job, the men are approached by a man named Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite) who informs them that he represents the powerful lord of the underworld Keyser Soze. According to Kobayashi, each of the men was secretly working for Soze without his knowledge, and he intentionally gathered them together in order to perform a job for him. Soze will be extremely grateful if they pull off the job, which requires them to attack a foreign tanker loaded with cocaine. In exchange, the men can keep all cash onboard and Soze will receive the elimination of his chief competitor. With a detailed dossier on each man, Kobayashi explains that if the men do not cooperate, horrible things will befall their loved ones, each of whom he personally names.
As Kent continues to reveal the details of the ill-fated harbor mission, the audience learns that an eyewitness saw Keyser Soze at the harbor that night. As the police sketch artist completes his rendering, Kent and Kujan reach a surprising conclusion.
Directed by Bryan Singer, producer of such commercial hits as X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003), The Usual Suspects is, from a suspense standpoint as well as cinematic effect, one of the best written movies of its era. If you enjoy violent dramas, then it’s very doubtful you will not thoroughly enjoy this film. Memorable in every respect, The Usual Suspects deserves a high rating on the scale of must-see films. Treat yourself to an evening of intrigue, and give it a try.
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