..

THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Special Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite, Kevin Spacey, Suzy Amis, Benicio Del Toro, Giancarlo Esposito
Director: Bryan Singer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: April 2, 2002

“Look, in my opinion, it can’t be done. Anyone who goes in there is not comin’ out alive.”
“I’m gonna wait for the money.”
“Me, too.”
“Did you hear what he just said?”
“If I’m goin’ in, I want a cut.”
“Me, too…there’s nothing that can’t be done.”
“I just can’t believe we’re gonna walk in to certain death.”

Film ****

Nearly a year after the release of one of the great movie, Pulp Fiction, came The Usual Suspects, and has since been the only film to come close to matching the brilliance of Tarantino’s movie in terms of ingenious plotting and remarkable acting. The film, directed by future X-Men director Bryan Singer and composed of an Oscar winning screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, spars one of the single most brilliant plot twists in movie history. Strangely enough, this movie was released in not only the same year, but the exact same month as another genius thriller, David Fincher’s Se7en, which also included a remarkable twist ending, as well as a brief appearance by one of the key cast members in this film. It was also a launch pad for many of the film’s cast, who were rising actors at the time of its release, in particularl Kevin Spacey and Benicio Del Toro.

The film opens with the aftermath of a botched heist job on a pier, where the police discover 27 dead men, and absolutely no evidence of drugs or money, either of which was the alleged motive. Customs Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) interrogates the lone survivor of the failed robbery, a cripple known as Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey), who slowly recollects the events that have led to the present. We are then introduced to the five “usual suspects”. In addition to Kint, they include Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), a ex-cop turned thief who presently claims to be a legitimate businessman, Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin) a psychopathic hit man, Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak), a specialist with hardware, and Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), whose participation exists simply because he has been a longtime partner with McManus.

The five men are brought together by fate, thanks to a phony report of guns being hijacked. They are put together in a line up, then in a holding cell, and they are eventually free of all charges. Keaton, vowing never to return to the world of crime, is pressured by the fellow criminals to participate in an emerald heist, which he agrees do very reluctantly. Not too long after that job, the men are confronted by a mysterious man (Pete Postlethwaite), who claims to be the representative of the notoriously dreaded crime figure known as Keyser Soze, whose name alone scares the skin off of any criminal. The man offers them a risky proposal; steal 91 million dollars worth of cocaine from a boat in a pier, and be rewarded with the exact amount of money. 

As Kint reveals to Kujan, Soze, according to legend, is a force not to be messed with, as perfectly illustrated in a shocking scene involving a disturbing act of sacrifice. Making the mythical figure sound even more frightening is that no one has ever seen him, or knows what he looks like for that matter. Going up against some big time fear, the five men band together and plan to do the job. The sequence involving the heist stirs up an enormous deal of tension and suspense, mostly because you sense that the men show some instances of fear themselves, making it even more chilling.

This is a pure triumph of a suspense thriller in all aspects, from style to writing to acting. The cast is nothing short of amazing. Spacey, who won his first Oscar for his memorable performance here is astonishing. Gabriel Byrne turns in one his most excellent performances to date, as well as his most complicated characterization. Kevin Pollak, known mostly for his comedic roles turns in a menacing, cold-blooded tour de force. Benicio Del Toro, speaking in an almost indecipherable dialect, nearly steals the film as Fenster. And as for Stephen Baldwin, this remains his best work to date, because he simply hasn’t appeared in as many quality films like this. Finally, Chazz Palminteri, an actor who frequents tends to overact in many of his roles, is right on the money as the hard-bitten and determined investigator.

Directed with pure visceral style and edge by Bryan Singer, and written with sheer genius by Christopher McQuarrie, The Usual Suspects remains a classic movie treasure. Each viewing delivers a new surprise not seen before, and the ending still catches you by surprise even when repeated, something few films can even bare to achieve. Truly, one of the great films of the last decade.

Video ***1/2

MGM has done themselves good this time around with this glorious looking re-issue of a movie that is dire need of a revision after two previous attempts. First released by Polygram, and later re-issued by MGM, the picture was that of non-anamorphic, which wasn’t bad looking, but for a movie that contains a lot of masterful style, it truly deserved the full treatment. Now MGM has thoughtfully applied a nice looking anamorphic quality to this release. Picture quality is for the most part sharp and crisp, despite a few instances of image softness. This will certainly be noted in my book as one of the best re-issues of this year. The full frame version is also available, but you know which version you should watch.

Audio ****

The previous issuing of The Usual Suspects contained a startling impressive audio track, and MGM’s new re-issue carries, from I what can tell, very much the same quality audio mix. The 5.1 track terrifically captures the overall suspense of the movie, from John Ottman’s memorably chilling score, to the scenes involving Keyser Soze, as well as numerous shootout scenes. Sound travels very impressively through scenes between dialogue, action, and score. A much terrific listen!

Features ****

This may very well be MGM’s best-loaded Special Edition disc to date. First off, there are two commentary tracks; one with Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie (which is a terrifically insightful listen), and one with composer John Ottman. A vast array of deleted scenes with introduction by John Ottman. Five newly produced behind the scenes documentaries; “Pursuing the Suspects”, “Doin Time With the Suspects”, “Keyser Soze-Lie or Legend”, “Heisting Cannes with The Usual Suspects”, and the original featurette. Also included is a funny put-together gag reel with an intro by Bryan Singer, two trailers and eight TV spots. There are also some Easter eggs located here and there.

Also, the disc is packaged neatly with the snap case enclosed in nice-looking slip cover!

Summary:

The Usual Suspects is one of the most clever tricks of a movie masterpiece to ever be made. It is a classic noir thriller that makes for a big treat of a viewing, both first time and repeated.