For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Crime Films, here’s a review of The Usual Suspects (1995) by SG of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to Dan of Slipthrough Movies for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Drew of Drew’s Movie Reviews We will be reviewing our favorite Heist Movies.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of March by sending them to email@example.com Try to think out of the box! Great choice Drew!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Five guys in a lineup—how simple a start.
If you think this simple, then you must be smart!
Now four are deceased from a stickup gone south,
And just Verbal Kint’s left to open his mouth.
The others— I can’t quite remember each name—
Well, one had an accent and two were the same,
And then there was Keaton, a con going straight
Whose path remained crooked till it was too late.
They thought themselves framed so they struck the police
And formed their own team on a greedy caprice,
Till then the feared king of the criminals called
And what Keyser Soze wants cannot be stalled.
If I haven’t lost you, then you’re doing well.
Just wade through the characters to the bombshell,
And when all the plot threads are woven at last,
You may have to see it again for contrast.
MPAA rating: R
Well, this is it, the movie I’ve been avoiding any mention of until recently. I’m usually not shy about looking up spoilers, and some films like The Sixth Sense and Empire Strikes Back were spoiled accidentally by being so well-known, but I’d been able to keep myself clear of the oh-so-famous twist in The Usual Suspects. I knew of the twist, but I didn’t know what it was. Now I do, so I guess my life is complete(?).
As for the movie itself, The Usual Suspects is one convoluted puzzle of a crime thriller, complete with plenty of R-rated language and an Oscar-winning screenplay. If you read its Wikipedia summary, the actual movie doesn’t start until the second paragraph with the interrogation of Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) and the also-famous scene of five suspects standing on a police line-up, Kint included. Flashbacks of Verbal’s testimony alternate with present scenes of the police trying to piece together what happened at a boat bloodbath in the harbor the previous night.
I knew at least to expect the film’s nonlinear storytelling, and I have to give director and writer Bryan Singer due credit for the intricate collage of twists and turns. As well-edited as it is, though, the overwhelming number of underdeveloped characters and hastily explained incidents makes confusion inevitable, and my VC was especially lost at times, not being used to non-linear plotlines. As I mentioned in the poem, only Verbal and Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) are given any kind of arc in the flashback plot, and both are excellent, with Spacey as the Oscar-winning standout, evoking fragility, loyalty, shock, and a bit more besides. Unfortunately, the strongest and “weakest” of the five dominate the story and leave Benicio del Toro as just “the one with the accent” and Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Pollak as “the other two guys.” There’s still room for strong supporting roles. Chazz Palminteri is suitably intense as Kujan, the special agent squeezing out Verbal’s story, while Pete Postlethwaite is civil but menacing as Keyser Soze’s go-between Kobayashi, who curiously is not oriental in the slightest.
As much as I admired the film overall, The Usual Suspects suffers from the same coldness as another mind-bender, Christopher Nolan’s Memento. So much effort is poured into the central mystery and the story structure that it’s hard to connect to even the strongest characters. And of course, there’s the twist, and though we didn’t know what to expect, my VC and I both guessed it long before the revelation. Perhaps knowing that there was a surprise coming made us more eager to sniff it out, but it wasn’t quite as impactful as I was hoping, not to mention the fact that it opened up countless questions never meant to be answered. The Usual Suspects is a first-rate crime thriller with an arresting climax that established Singer as a talented director, and I’d probably rate it higher if only I was more partial to crime thrillers in general.
Best line: (Verbal, quoting Charles Baudelaire, about Keyser Soze) “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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