“The Usual Suspects”

Ah-ha! I have watched a video! Apparently the trick is to feel slightly under the weather enough that sitting in the living room staring at the TV feels like a good idea. So after about a month sitting in my bag, I popped “The Usual Suspects” into my DVD player and finally, finally watched it. In part, this movie was ruined for me because I knew the trick from the outset: Verbal Kint is Keyser Soze. I never had a moment’s doubt about who Soze was (Spacey’s voice was clearly recognizable at the beginning, though again, my expectations may have made it so. Also, he was less of a star in ’95, and a filmgoer not aware of how crucial that scene would become for later figuring out the film wouldn’t necessarily have taken note of the whisper). Thus knowing, I thought I had the movie figured out from the beginning, and in some ways I did — but in others, I was completely wrong. The film felt like a great experiment in storytelling to me, as at the end, only two sequences in the entire movie can be filed as true: those up to and including the line-up and those in the police station, the actual interview (but not the flashbacks) between Kujan and Kint. The rest of it — did any of it happen? Did all of it happen?
Gabriel Byrne, who I’ve always found reliably good, was sharp and interesting enough as Dean Keaton to distract my attention from Kevin Spacey’s Oscar-winning performance as Kint/Soze, though his accent was indistinct and wavery. The other performances — young Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollack, Stephen Baldwin (pre-conversion), Chazz Palminteri — were also very strong, though the three other criminals remained caricatures as the film progressed. I think I liked this film, but I didn’t love it. I wonder if I would have at all the same reaction had I walked into it not knowing how things would end.

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4 Responses to “The Usual Suspects”

  1. tmseay says:

    Interesting. That was about my reaction to “The Usual Suspects.” Several people had told me that it had a wicked twist ending, and just knowing that a twist was coming spoiled everything. I really do wish I could have seen it without that knowledge…

  2. phillyexpat says:

    Movies like The Usual Suspects are why I see movies as early as possible. I was fortunate to see this one before I knew there was a twist, and I was bowled over by it. Same experience with The Sixth Sense, which I saw opening night. I did see The Crying Game after I knew Jaye Davidson was nominated for an Oscar in a certain category, so I figured that one out pretty quick.

  3. kepkanation says:

    I haven’t yet seen “The Crying Game,” but I’ve been so spoiled for it that I’m not sure I want to anymore.

  4. kepkanation says:

    It would probably be a really cool film experience if you *didn’t* know the twist was coming.

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