Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Usual Suspects

 Well I have two new followers. So thanks to both Carlin and  Daniel for that. Carlin herself has been blogging about the same time I have and has got the start of a beautifully written blog going. I highly recommend a looksee!
 Secondly thanks to my name sake over at criminal movies who, through the great folks at Amazon , saw the safe delivery of this DVD! Thanks to you both and I also recommend a visit to Brent's blog, I thinks it is one of the best out there. Again I highly recommend a looksee!
 This is going to be difficult to review after reading Brent's at criminal movies. Pop over and give it a gander as it is quite comprehensive and anything I put down here will pale in comparison! I left a comment stating I saw this in 1993, that is incorrect, as it wasn't made until 1995, so I wish to correct that now! But the thing is I saw this on the big screen and it would have been one of, if not, the last film I saw at the old State theatre before it was closed down.
 I have only seen The Usual Suspects that one time. I have point blank refused to watch it again because of the impact of that first viewing. I left the theatre in '95 feeling like I had had my senses beaten out of me. The ending as you all know is possibly one of the best in cinematic history. It had sucked me in well before then and I believed all I saw and heard so when it turned out to be lies and deception I was stunned and felt like a complete fool. I never wanted to lose that feeling of sixteen years ago. Pulp Fiction had the same impact and I have never been back there either for the same reason.
 But last night I revisited Suspects even with knowing the end. I was pleasantly surprised that I remembered so much of it. It is funny how certain scenes will stay with you and others are completely forgotten. Most of the dialogue was forgotten and new to me all over again. What really got me though that while this is sixteen years old it hadn't dated visually and looked as fresh as the day it was made. It was crystal clear on DVD and a real pleasure to watch in genuine wide screen.
 Other things I had forgotten was the role of Benicio del Toro. I could not remember him at all!! He is an actor that has totally slipped under my radar until I watched the brilliant 21 Grams recently ( see my review of last month! ). The rest of the cast I remember, but especially Stephen Baldwin, and not for the reasons you might expect. He plays his part well but for some reason I have never been able to stand the sight of the guy. I think he played the part of dickhead too well and too often that he started to annoy me. Hence I have discarded him as an actor. I never thought much of him in Fled and thought it was an ordinary movie. Suspects is the highlight of his career and he fits the part well though.
  Gabriel Byrne is always solid and here is quietly chilling as a retired crook drawn back to his former ways. I like his understated hardheaded coolness compared to the hot headedness of Baldwin's character. They are a mis-fit bunch and Byrne has a good role in tempering them as he has that 'way' about him. The cops are good and I love the silly bugger who bails up Spacey's character waving his finger in face saying ' you know why? Because I'm smarter than you'. A classic line that absolutely came back to haunt him as the realisation hit that he'd been strung along and duped. Not so smart after all huh?!
 All in all though this is Spacey's film. He is the quiet star of it all and it would be one of the last times that his name appeared last in the opening credits of a film he starred in. This is the film that thrust him into the spotlight. Of course he went on to his best, and most outstanding role ( for me personally ), as Lester Burnham in one of the 1990's best films, American Beauty. It is no coincidence he starred in two of that decades best films. But it was his performance in Suspects that got him the one in Beauty.
 I digress here a bit for Spacey, after his success in Suspects, became hot property, and besides Beauty he very quickly went off the boil as an actor. Too many roles too quickly, and injudicious selection of roles saw him become too familiar to audieneces and I felt he just became Spacey playing Spacey. He wasn't bad in Superman Returns and in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but he went off the boil and I thought he was going to fade away. But recently he has picked himself up and began turning performances worthy of his talent. Robin Williams was in a similar position after Mork and Mindy. He became hot property and boring with it very quickly. Because of it I have never been able to stand him since. Too much exposure too quickly can be fatal to an actor, and Spacey went through this.
 Colin Firth's Oscar winning performance as a stutterer is widely known, but how is Spacey as a cripple with a bung arm and gammy leg?? I don't think he has quite got the recognintion he deserves for pulling that off. His lines are what he is known for in Suspects not his physical apperance.
 I have heard people say Suspects is like Pulp Fiction, but I think this wrong. Pulp fiction was a linear film chopped up and put back together out of sequence. Suspects is a series of flashbacks and the technique is completely different to Fiction's. Flashbacks are nothing new in film making. But what makes Suspects stand out is that they are narrated by Spacey's character and inter-posed with the real time events involving the police as they examine the boat and interview the burned crew member. It is all brilliantly done and is at the core of Suspects success, the ending is the master stroke of the film , but the build up shouldn't be over looked..
 Looking back to my first viewing I never figured out the twist of the end. This film sucked me in, made me out to be a fool, and spat me out in disgust. By the end I fully believed that Keaton was Soze. And then the twist that slapped me in the face and went, 'sucker!!'  What a film, and after watching it again I loved it for having done so all those years ago. My second watching has opened up so much more to me that the first viewing didn't. What struck me was that here were two stories going on simultaneously. The cops trying to unravel the events on the dock and Spacey at the same time muddying the waters. What I didn't notice first time round was as the cops got closer to the truth Spacey was leading his interviwer further and further away from it . Of course by the time the cops have it figured al out and the fax with Soze's face sent it is all too late.
 Brilliant, brilliant stuff. I never saw the duality within the movie. On one hand we have the mists of it all being parted and on the other the mists being rolled in. We sit there wondering what is true and what isn't? Is Soze real? What is real and what isn't? etc,etc, and so on and so forth. An amazing experience and one I didn't expect on a second viewing. I actually enjoyed this film the second time more than I thought I would as more and more became apparent that I didn't see first time round.
 This is an absolute masterpice of audienece deception. I think within cinema a twist ending is one of the most difficult feats to pull off. Most are so obvious it isn't funny, or just straight out absurd. The Usual Suspects would have to be one of the very best ever pulled off in cienmatic history The Sixth Sense being another good example. When I was first hit with it I couldn't believe how badly I'd been sucked in and thought a second viewing wouldn't do much for me. I was wrong!! Maybe it is a good thing I waited so long to see it again as I saw many things that weren't apparent because of knowing the end. It made me appreciate this film even more. I have always rated this film as one of my most favorites.  My viewing of it last night only reconfirmed that assessment.
 The Usual Suspects is without question one of the greatset films of the 1990's. The end is unbelievable and fooled audiences world wide. Even though it is then known, a second viewing I now know and believe is mandatory as the viewer will see so much more than a first viewing can give. So much deception cannot be seen first time round. But second time around you can only sit back and marvel at how the makers pulled it off. Absolutely brilliantly made and an exceptional piece of cinema that you experience rather than just watch.
Click here for an undeceptive synposis!
And you won't be decieved here either!
And here is truthful!


  1. Great review! Thank you for all the kind words too! Everyone was good hear regardless of their later performances. I don't think I've liked Steven Baldwin in anything else, but he's good in this. I like your observations about the characters. It sounds like you enjoyed the second viewing. I personally think it's a completely different movie when you watch the second time.

  2. Absolultely right..it is a completely movie different the second time around. I suppose knowing how it ends mean you aren't sitting there wondering what is going on and see other things that you couldn't in a first watch.