Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Usual Suspects

Before the night before last I had never seen this movie. In fact, the only Kevin Spacey movies I had seen were L.A. Confidential, A Time to Kill, Outbreak, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Superman Returns. And I actually used IMDB to come up with a few of those titles because I completely forgot he was in Outbreak or See No Evil, Hear No Evil.  

However, from I what had read of Kevin Spacey, he seems like one of those actors like Tim Robbins or Vincent D'Onofrio that a lot of people know about but never seem to quite mention with the upper echelon of Hollywood greats. With two Oscar wins under his belt, Spacey doesn't really grab headlines. Maybe you can name a surefire great movie he was in (or a few), but you probably know quite a few more Tom Cruise movies than you do Spacey movies.

The Usual Suspects is one of those films that folks who like films just hear about and have to watch. The ending is famous. Even if you were like me and had never seen the film before you'll still know the ending is famous. That takes away a lot of the fun (much like knowing that Norman Bates dresses up like his mother even though you've never seen Psycho), but sometimes this just can't be helped. People talk and sometimes they talk too much. As time passes everyone just naturally assumes that everyone else has seen "the classics" and things can get spoiled.

This is one of those movies that just doesn't work so well if you know the ending beforehand. Other movies can get away with that kind of thing. Even modern movies. Take Iron Man, for instance. At the end Tony Stark saves the day and then tells everyone he's Iron Man. Not a very big spoiler there. However, anyone who tells you the ending of The Usual Suspects when you haven't seen it should be punched multiple times in the kidney. 

The entire movie is based on one concept and that is one of five criminals meeting up in a police lineup. Their loose association eventually leads them into doing a desperate job for a criminal mastermind and that is where our movie begins. Like Reservoir Dogs, this films starts in the aftermath of the crime. Through flashbacks we are told the story, but it feels like director Bryan Singer is just screwing with us at times and we are just not quite sure what we are supposed to believe or not believe.

Without the right screenplay, the right director, and the right actors then this film would not have survived its own cleverness. If just one ingredient was off then we probably wouldn't be talking about this movie today. Even the editing was essential. A lot of movies don't make you think about editing, but this one does.

Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollack, Kevin Spacey, and Benicio Del Toro play our five criminals and I think the casting department really nailed this lineup (pardon the pun). Baldwin could very well have been the weakest link of the bunch, but he still adequately portrays his character. 

Chazz Palminteri plays a hardboiled US Customs agent and he does so in typical Palminteri fashion. He doesn't exactly steal the show (Spacey does that in an Oscar-winning portrayal of a con man with cerebral palsy), but Palminteri serves as the eyes and ears of the audience and his role is pretty critical in conveying the story we're being told. 

This is perhaps Bryan Singer's only great movie, but it's certainly one to be known for. 

Ain't seen it? Watch it. Seen it? Watch it again. 

(By the way, look for me to do more movie reviews starting with Se7en, Saw, The Human Centipede, 28 Days Later, and Stand Up Guys.) 

1 comment:

  1. You discovered a good one. I love this flick.

    Another Kevin Spacey favorite of mine is American Beauty. And if your in for a mean & cruel boss / employee story, "Swimming With Sharks" is awesome and hilarious and kind of brutal in an office assistant kind of way.