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Have you ever wondered why some critics review films? They don't even seem to like movies that much from what they write. I LOVE movies, and think about them long after the last credits roll across the screen. My reviews are meant to inform, entertain and never have a spoiler.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Usual Suspects

I remember seeing The Usual Suspects when it was first released in 1995. It begins in a kind of film noir setting, the music befitting the line of fire reaching across a boat to an explosion. I didn’t remember all the details of the story before watching it again for the Challenge, just the aha moments.

This time around, I can’t say I liked it any better. The aha moments were still there, but it grew tiresome with the explosions, gunfire, death and crime.

Actors who appear in this film went on to bigger and better films, especially for Kevin Spacey and Benecio del Toro.

Basically, you get five men in a lineup, supposedly randomly thrown together in a jail cell, where they plot their next big job. An unlikely grouping, there is Roger “Verbal” Kint (Kevin Spacey), a man with cerebral palsy that others think is stupid, Fred Fenster (Benecio del Toro), Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin; whatever happened to him?), Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), and Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollack).

Verbal gets interrogated by a couple of police officers, Jeff Rabin (Dan Hedaya) and Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) about an incident, and the story unfolds. Verbal narrates throughout the film, a device that doesn’t always work in a good film, but it does here.

Kevin Spacey won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance. I think the reason this screenplay won at the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay is because it had so many twists and turns to the plot. Just when you think you know what’s going on, another piece of information arises from the police or a victim, or from Verbal himself. And there’s this man named Keyser Soze who comes up.

Who is Keyser Soze? You will wonder about this. Is he like the La Llorona legend in New Mexico? Kids are told scary bedtime stories about someone you don’t want to cross or you’ll have a stroke of misfortune. Someone who doesn’t really exist, just a phantom to give you nightmares.

Or if he really does exist, he is one bad dude and you still don’t want to cross paths with him.

This film received a lot of prestigious nominations for the screenwriter, Christopher McQuarrie, and included his winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The Usual Suspects is rated R for violence and a substantial amount of strong language.

Out of the films I’ve reviewed so far, I don’t recommend it. I’ll give you a list at the end of my 26 posts of what I do and don’t recommend for your edification.

I’m just tired of violent films with the f-word thrown around like it’s part of our language. Tired of gun battles and casual murdering of people, as bad as they might be. We need more screenplays that tell good stories about more realistic situations we may encounter, not like these criminals that most of us aren’t.

Did you see The Usual Suspects, and what did you think of it?


  1. I always meant to see this one again. I saw it the once, and I wondered if on repeated viewing I'd get something more from it due to the big reveal. But it hasn't been a priority. I guess it still won't be.

    1. Yes, you can skip watching it again. There's much better movies for repeat viewing.

  2. I missed this when it came out and saw it the first time a few years back not knowing anything about the film. I watched it all the way through and didn't see the twist ending, it caught me off guard. But honestly I have to say that I really enjoyed this film and try to watch it whenever I see it on. What amazed me is at the end you realize that probably none of what he told was the truth. You never find out why he had them killed, just that he told a made up story to get him out of the police station. But I will agree that there is a great deal of violence in the film and that could throw people off.

    1. I did actually like it the first time I saw it for the same reasons you mentioned. Quite a reveal at the end. This time I was just tired of watching senseless violence, and I knew the ending, so it wasn't the same feeling watching it.

  3. Ooh, I love this film! Yes, it uses coarse language, but that's because these guys are all career criminals. That's what makes them "the usual suspects" -- they're always in the lineup. The fact that you can't see the twist coming is what makes this film so great, the first time, and the fact that you can find all the clues when you re-watch it makes it more fun. Kevin Spacey's unreliable narrator is perfect. I enjoy noir and crime fiction, so this is one of my favorites, despite the violence. After all, how can you not be drawn into a story about a man described as the devil himself?

    1. The twist is definitely memorable. The friend I saw it with the first time was kind of disappointed at the ending, like he'd been cheated out of something more real because of the storytelling nature of Verbal. But that was the point I said. To each his own.