The Usual Suspects (DVD, 2009, Repackaged) Reviews
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The Usual Suspects (DVD, 2009, Repackaged)

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Tell Me A Story: The Usual Suspects

Oct 31, 2006 (Updated Nov 25, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Story, Acting, Editing, Score

Cons:Read the review for script "issues"

The Bottom Line: This one has it all, great story, acting, score, editing, repeat viewing potential. Must see!

The Usual Suspects (1995)

“Round up the usual suspects.” Captain Renault, Casablanca

When you think of crime movies, The Usual Suspects comes up high on the list. In fact, the Internet Movie Database lists its popularity at #16 on its Top 250 all time greatest movies list. What is it that makes this movie so good?

For one thing, it has an original story, by Christopher MacQuarrie, told with flair by Director Bryan Singer. You haven’t quite seen a story like this before if you haven’t seen The Usual Suspects, and you probably won’t again. The storytelling is so good, it bears repeated watching and you’ll note little things you missed before each time you view it. But you still will not fully understand it, and that’s the only problem (and it’s only a small one) I have with the film - more on that later.

The Usual Suspects has probably the best ensemble cast since The Magnificent Seven, with a number of big stars who were unknown at the time. Benicio Del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollak, Chaz Palminteri, Kevin Spacey, Dan Hedaya, Pete Postalthwaite, and Giancarlo Esposito, to name a few that have since become familiar faces. The players make their entrances, exits, and perform flawlessly under the faultless touch of Singer’s superb direction.

The one weakness of The Usual Suspects is the story; once you’ve seen it, you know the score and I’m not going to tell you if you haven’t seen it lest I pull its punch. How is it weak? Well, I’m one who believes a story has to have integrity, at least within itself. Once you get to the end of this story you’ll be questioning if it wasn’t all a pack of lies, and there is no way to tell that it isn’t. So the moviemakers play with you - that’s the weakness. What you’ve seen with your eyes may not have happened and you can’t watch the movie enough to get the clues that will set you on the path to figuring this puzzler out. That’s where it lacks integrity, and with that I’m through criticizing it.

Of course, Kevin Spacey (Glengarry Glen Ross, LA Confidential) won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Christopher McQuarrie won a Best Script Oscar. McQuarrie has since gone on to direct a minor masterpiece The Way of the Gun while director Bryan Singer (X-Men) has not done anything even remotely in the league of The Usual Suspects, since.

Kevin Spacey is the heart of the movie with his character Verbal Kint, a handicapped petty criminal who is detained and questioned about the deaths of several criminals. The interrogator (Chaz Palminteri) and Spacey form the nucleus of the story with frequent cutaways to flashbacks concerning the activities of the gang of which Kint was only a small part. Kevin Spacey is brilliant and Chaz Palminteri provides a suitable sounding board for his narrative.

Besides great performances by the actors, including Gabriel Byrne (Miller‘s Crossing), Kevin Pollack, Benicio Del Toro, and Stephen Baldwin, the editing is among the best jobs I’ve ever seen, and John Ottman‘s score is perfectly mated to the visuals.

The MGM “Special Edition” DVD contains a 1.85:1 copy of the 106 minute color movie, with a pan and scan (TV format) version also available through the menu. A pair of audio commentaries by the writer and director, a gag reel with outtakes, and a conversation with the composer, as well as subtitles, language choices, and trailers to round out the extras.

Any fan of crime dramas will benefit from seeing The Usual Suspects.

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