The Usual Suspects
Or: Always Clean your Bulletin Board
If you don't, you might be the silly cop who just wasn't paying attention. This film, released in 1995, still stands as one of my favorites for its slick style and thoroughly enjoyable performances. Even if the structure seems thin--and there are plenty of arguments to that effect--the movie comes fully supplied with sharp dialogue, super-criminals, and a whole selection of characters much cooler than I am.
I yearn for the day when I can wear a hat and long coat without looking foolish.
The Who's Who of Arch-Villainry
In Support of Your Local Sheriff
There are a load of others with smaller parts--not that they're small actors
--and as usual a number of uncredited roles
The movie was put together by Polygram, with some help, and fenced to the theatres by Gramercy Pictures.
The Story of the Story
The plot can get complicated, so I'm just going to be giving out the basics. It's rather a detectivish story as well; I'll try to avoid spoiling things for those of you who haven't already dropped everything and run out to the local video shop.
The film is told mainly in flashback
, and comes from the mouth of an arrested Verbal Kint
, crippled small-time scam artist
with a penchant for annoying anecdotes
. He spills it to Agent Kujan
of the Justice Department
while waiting to post bail.
Briefly: the six principal characters are thrown together after being arrested and put in an arranged lineup. They set up a sting on New York's Finest Taxi Service, and split to Los Angeles to fence the goods they manage to lift.
After a job shot to them by tough-guy Peter Greene in LA goes south, they meet Mr. Kobayashi--who works for Keyser Soze, the criminal that's been going bump in everyone's night. Each thief has transgressed against this uber-felon of mythic proportions, and so they are all coerced into a repaying their debt by coming out for the quintessential one last job.
One member of the group decides to go his own way. And then there were five.
The group is charged with stopping a massive drug deal aboard a ship--$90 million in cocaine is supposedly aboard, and Soze doesn't want the deal to go through, as it'll rejuvenate the strength of his key competitors and oldest enemies. Keaton says it can't be done; they're walking into certain death.
That's as much as can be reasonably said without ruining things. The other part--the 'clever' part--of this film is that while all this is going on, the Feds are tracking down the identity of Keyser Soze. A great deal of the suspense comes from the race to figure it out--and on your first viewing it'll have you trying to outsmart your fellow audience members.
I've left a lot out, because this is a film that's made by the details.
Keep Your Eyes Out
There are a number of great moments and characterizations in this picture. Del Toro's take on Fenster is just fantastic, and we actually get a decent performance from the Baldwin brother whose most recent memorable work is opposite a computer-generated, talking M and M. Gabriel Byrne is definitely taking a page of out Miller's Crossing, and you can't beat Pete Postlethwaite for cold command presence. Kevin Spacey is Kevin Spacey.
The cinematography is gorgeous, and naturally the score and cutting are very well married, giving the film an excellent pace and rhythm. The story also benefits from the high degree of cinematic stylization, which creates a very cool underworld in which it's thoroughly entertaining to spend a couple of hours.
Just a short selection of memorable swatches of dialogue:
: Keaton once said, 'I don't believe in God
, but I'm afraid
of him.' Well I believe in God
, and the only thing that scares me, is Keyser Soze.
: One cannot be betrayed if one has no people.
: You're making me tired all over.
: (to the tune of 'Old MacDonald')
Old MacDonald had a farm
...ee-aye, ee-aye, oh. And on that farm he shot some guys...bada-bip, bada bing
After That...My Guess is You'll Never Hear from Him Again
I'm not going to lie to you--the movie's got one of those endings that you'll either love, or get pissed off by--possibly one and then the other some time later. But the Academy thought enough of it to give it the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and Spacey came away with a statue for Best Supporting Actor.
For those of you know what the Academy's votes are worth, BAFTA honored it with Best Film, Best Editing, and Best Screenplay awards as well.
And for those of you who vote with your dollars--the budget was 6 million, and the domestic gross was 23 million.
It's a movie I always enjoy, so I can confidently recommend it.
These Guys Get a Cut of the Take:
For the Quest
*So sayeth Evil Catullus