The title of this great little film is a direct quote from Casablanca.

In Casablanca, in the early part of the film, the local police inspector is talking to his officers about how to begin an investigation of a murder. When someone quizzes him on where to start, he waves his hand in a dismissive manner and says:

"Round up the usual suspects!"

The quote is used again, later in the film.

This phrase is now often used to describe behavior of corrupt bureaucracies.

The Usual Suspects
Or: Always Clean your Bulletin Board

If you don't, you might be the silly cop who just wasn't paying attention. This film, released in 1995, still stands as one of my favorites for its slick style and thoroughly enjoyable performances. Even if the structure seems thin--and there are plenty of arguments to that effect--the movie comes fully supplied with sharp dialogue, super-criminals, and a whole selection of characters much cooler than I am.

I yearn for the day when I can wear a hat and long coat without looking foolish.

The Who's Who of Arch-Villainry

In Support of Your Local Sheriff

There are a load of others with smaller parts--not that they're small actors--and as usual a number of uncredited roles.

Masterminds

The movie was put together by Polygram, with some help, and fenced to the theatres by Gramercy Pictures.

The Story of the Story

The plot can get complicated, so I'm just going to be giving out the basics. It's rather a detectivish story as well; I'll try to avoid spoiling things for those of you who haven't already dropped everything and run out to the local video shop.

The film is told mainly in flashback, and comes from the mouth of an arrested Verbal Kint, crippled small-time scam artist with a penchant for annoying anecdotes. He spills it to Agent Kujan of the Justice Department while waiting to post bail.

Briefly: the six principal characters are thrown together after being arrested and put in an arranged lineup. They set up a sting on New York's Finest Taxi Service, and split to Los Angeles to fence the goods they manage to lift.

After a job shot to them by tough-guy Peter Greene in LA goes south, they meet Mr. Kobayashi--who works for Keyser Soze, the criminal that's been going bump in everyone's night. Each thief has transgressed against this uber-felon of mythic proportions, and so they are all coerced into a repaying their debt by coming out for the quintessential one last job.

One member of the group decides to go his own way. And then there were five.

The group is charged with stopping a massive drug deal aboard a ship--$90 million in cocaine is supposedly aboard, and Soze doesn't want the deal to go through, as it'll rejuvenate the strength of his key competitors and oldest enemies. Keaton says it can't be done; they're walking into certain death.

That's as much as can be reasonably said without ruining things. The other part--the 'clever' part--of this film is that while all this is going on, the Feds are tracking down the identity of Keyser Soze. A great deal of the suspense comes from the race to figure it out--and on your first viewing it'll have you trying to outsmart your fellow audience members.

I've left a lot out, because this is a film that's made by the details.

Keep Your Eyes Out

There are a number of great moments and characterizations in this picture. Del Toro's take on Fenster is just fantastic, and we actually get a decent performance from the Baldwin brother whose most recent memorable work is opposite a computer-generated, talking M and M. Gabriel Byrne is definitely taking a page of out Miller's Crossing, and you can't beat Pete Postlethwaite for cold command presence. Kevin Spacey is Kevin Spacey.

The cinematography is gorgeous, and naturally the score and cutting are very well married, giving the film an excellent pace and rhythm. The story also benefits from the high degree of cinematic stylization, which creates a very cool underworld in which it's thoroughly entertaining to spend a couple of hours.

Running Lines

Just a short selection of memorable swatches of dialogue:


Kint:: Keaton once said, 'I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him.' Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me, is Keyser Soze.
Kobayashi: One cannot be betrayed if one has no people.
Keaton: You're making me tired all over.
McManus: (to the tune of 'Old MacDonald') Old MacDonald had a farm...ee-aye, ee-aye, oh. And on that farm he shot some guys...bada-bip, bada bing-bam boom.

After That...My Guess is You'll Never Hear from Him Again

I'm not going to lie to you--the movie's got one of those endings that you'll either love, or get pissed off by--possibly one and then the other some time later. But the Academy thought enough of it to give it the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and Spacey came away with a statue for Best Supporting Actor.

For those of you know what the Academy's votes are worth, BAFTA honored it with Best Film, Best Editing, and Best Screenplay awards as well.

And for those of you who vote with your dollars--the budget was 6 million, and the domestic gross was 23 million.

It's a movie I always enjoy, so I can confidently recommend it.


These Guys Get a Cut of the Take:
www.imdb.com
For the Quest
*So sayeth Evil Catullus
Warning: Contains Major Spoilers!

While I was punching holes in legal documents for purposes of Cerlox binding, I realized that there is a significant flaw in the plot of one of my favourite movies: The Usual Suspects.

If you have not seen the film I beg you to stop reading now...

The whole plot hinges, of course, around one massive unknown fact: a fact that is revealed gloriously in the end. Now, the reason for which Kaiser launched the operation against the boat with the Hungarians was to kill the one man, Arturro Marquez, who could identify him. Then, through brilliant storytelling, he seemingly escapes from the police. The drama of the final scene is heightened by the sudden, crushing realisation of the duped detective that he has been tricked. Now, there are two possibilities. One: Kaiser didn't care whether he could be identified by the police or not. In this scenario, it makes no sense for him to go through all the trouble of killing the one man who can identify him. If, then, as the second scenario requires, he does want to remain anonymous, he has failed. The police now have a description from the Hungarian who was nearly burned to death and the information from Dave Kujan's (the detective from US Customs) revelation. The ending seems to be this brilliant moment of cleverness winning out - a classic clever villain escapes his captors film - but in the end, Kaiser has failed to achieve what he set out to do. He was about to be released before he told anything to Kujan, the customs agent, and would therefore have probably gotten away with everything. His cover was good enough that the sketch from the Hungarian probably wouldn't have been enough to finger him. The seemingly triumphant finale is therefore a well concealed defeat.

The obvious objection to this line of reasoning is Kaiser's statement about vanishing and never been heard of again. Of course, if that had been his plan, Marquez would have been irrelevant. Moreover, there would have been no reason to tell his story at all: he could have just walked and disappeared.

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