red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen

 

 

The Usual Suspects

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio del Toro,
         Chazz Palmintieri, Kevin Pollack, Dan Hedaya, Pete Postlethwaite
Director: Bryan Singer
Screenwriter: Christopher McQuarrie
Theatrical release: 1995; available on DVD


From the opening visual pyrotechnics of an exploding boat to the mind-bending twist at the end, The Usual Suspects is anything but. Reviewers and audiences seem to either love this movie or hate it. But that may be just what the filmmakers had in mind. Whether or not you like what you see, the film will certainly have you talking and thinking — and "buzz" is Hollywood's most valuable currency.

At least two mysteries intertwine in the narrative. First, who is "Keyser Sözé" — enigmatic Hungarian mobster or...? Second, what's going on with the shipment of cocaine that led to the boat explosion? Beyond that, you'll wonder throughout who's connected to whom and why and how this story will play itself out.

Told in flashbacks, the mysteries and connections can be confusing, frustrating, and compelling, all at the same time. Simply watching these actors at work in a complexly plotted film is fascinating.

Kevin Spacey won an Oscar® for his portrayal of the club-footed petty thief and gangster wannabe who recounts the whole story for a baffled police detective. Christopher McQuarrie also won an Academy Award for his screenplay. Altogether, it's amazing stuff.

The film is rated R and is not for everyone. But it's been shown on TV, which is where I saw it first, so a somewhat sanitized version still allows you to follow the story — as much as anyone can — even with cuss words dubbed and some of the more violent scenes trimmed.

Clipping right along at just over 90 minutes, it's a movie that requires your full attention. And no doubt, if you watch it on DVD, you'll watch it again and again to figure out what really happened — and to decide whether you're intrigued or angered by the final twist. Regardless, it's a film you won't soon forget.

 

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