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

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An Unusual Response to THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

Mar 6, 2011
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Kevin Spacey, ending

Cons:Casting, sluggish pacing, corny, very disappointing considering the reputation

The Bottom Line: You should probably see it to check for yourself what all the hoopla is about but keep your expectations at the door--it probably won't deliver.

I recently viewed Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects with my girlfriend who hadn't seen it yet. Being a chipper kid who grew up watching all of these 90s gems I couldn't wait to watch it again as I had trumpeted how good it was for years seemingly. However, what shocked me was how it hadn't really stood up very well. It's probably been about a year or two since I've seen it last...but I didn't remember not enjoying it as much as I did the other night.

This is Bryan Singer's second film and the one that really pushed his career off the ground, which would continue to soar from Apt Pupil (the Stephen King adaptation) to the first two X-Men films. This is the story about a boat being destroyed, tons of dead bodies of previous suspects in a ton of criminal activity showing up, and the one sole witness recounting his testimony as to how it all went down. Through his perspective we see how the events led up to the end and perhaps piece together what went down. Problem is that this narrator (Kevin Spacey) isn't the most credible witness as he's a member of these Usual Suspects.

The ending is the film's claim to fame and has been talked about for years after its release in 1995. When I originally rented this as a kid I remembered the clerk saying how much I'd dig the ending and, personally, it's one of the few things I remember about the film. This is a fairly mundane crime movie by many regards where you meet these characters who are up to no good and aside from the ending there's no real backbone to the story that offers anything really intelligent. The ending itself, on this most recent watch, is a bit of a head-scratcher admittedly where you'll have to re-watch it in order to fully comprehend it. What's rough is that the film just isn't that good on multiple viewings because you have to wade through all of the factors of what makes this such a mediocre film.

Kevin Spacey is a great performer and he's the large reason to check this out because he's a sympathetic character--a self-proclaimed cripple with a disability and he does a great job with all of the mannerisms and is very mysterious. I don't really care for the rest of the cast. Benicio Del Toro is here in this really colorful role, but he's muted the whole movie and doesn't get a lot of screen time.

Stephen Baldwin is helplessly miscast as this tough guy wild card character and he's so outrageous that he took me out of the film. Gabriel Byrne is one of the main characters who we're supposed to relate with the most...but he's one of the blandest actors on the face of the planet and helps make the film even more uninteresting. Kevin Pollak and Chazz Palminteri round out the cast...and do very reasonable jobs with the script in front of them on opposing sides of the law.

I hate to pick on a movie that's widely considered a huge classic...but it's about time someone figured out that some sacred movies can't stand the test of time. This is one of them. While this was revolutionary back in the day, I'm sure, it's not as exciting or interesting as it was when I saw it years ago. The pacing is really sluggish and moves too slow to be considered a thriller and there's not enough drama to call it a drama--unless you count how corny a majority of the movie is when it deals with its own thematic content. 

While an hour and forty minutes is a solid running time, the movie feels much longer and because of how largely unexciting everything is you'll certainly feel ready for it to be over and maybe piece together what the whole film is about. What's weird about that, too, is that the whole film is sort of...dare I say it...pointless at the end of the day once you get to the ending. There's not a whole lot of flair on the part of Singer's direction nor anything else worth mentioning aside from Spacey's performance and the classic ending. I'm not saying this is a bad movie because I'm positive some will take it with them to the grave, but it's certainly not my cup of tea and disappointed me to no end for some reason. Because of my own subjective case of dissatisfaction I'll give it a two-stars.

© Jason Haskins, 2011


X-Men (2000)
X2: X-Men United (2003)
Superman Returns (2006)

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