The Usual Suspects (1995)
November 9, 2018 8:28 PM - Subscribe

A sole survivor tells of the twisty events leading up to a horrific gun battle on a boat, which began when five criminals met at a seemingly random police lineup.
posted by numaner (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I was surprised FanFare didn't already have this up.

I saw it for the first time tonight, knowing full well the spoiler. What really worked was that I've only ever seen the spoiler that Kint was Soze in memes and those "here's all the big movie spoilers lol" tshirts and whatnot, so I only had that clue and had to be convinced that it was still a good movie with that fact in mind.

I've heard it said that it was slow, but from a modern view point (I can't believe this was 23 years ago god I'm old), the pacing is on par with modern mysteries. And the final review was well done, when you yourself as he viewer realized that most of what you've seen is from an unreliable narrator. Hell I don't think that phrase even existed back then. When Kujan dropped his coffee cup in disbelief I was like "oooh look at that trope" and then I realized, that might be where the trope came from!

I can see what it's considered a classic. The direction, the pacing, and the twist, were probably extraordinary at the time. I mean, I remember 90's movies, and they are definitely not like this, usually.

Of course there's the usual inclusiveness problems, for God's sake there's only one main actress, but at the time it was "acceptable". I can see the clear influence this movie has on modern mysteries though, that are move inclusive.
posted by numaner at 8:39 PM on November 9, 2018 [8 favorites]

The term "unreliable narrator" was coined in 1961.

This seemed very stylish and innovative at the time; I think it still holds up pretty well.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:07 PM on November 9, 2018 [10 favorites]

Ah good find. I think my first encounter would've been Forest Gump, but I didn't know the term then, but you knew he couldn't tell what the reality of some situations were.
posted by numaner at 11:52 PM on November 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

This was a lot of fun, and the twist at the end was great -- I've read that the first time Gabriel Byrne saw the ending, he said "wait, I thought I was Keyser Soze". It works even though the plot makes absolutely no sense at all. (It's all about killing off the one eyewitness who can identify Soze? But at the end of the film, there's a whole stationhouse full of cops and feds who can ID him, along with mugshots, fingerprints, etc., etc.) I'm just not sure that I'll be able to watch it again, given what's come to light about Spacey.
posted by Zonker at 5:18 AM on November 10, 2018 [9 favorites]

This was one of my favorite films when it came out. I watched it multiple times. Unfortunately, like Zonker, I'm not sure I'll be able to watch it again, which is a shame.

One of the best parts is Benicio Del Toro's accent. Once he realized that what he said really didn't matter, he developed that accent, which is awesome.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:12 AM on November 10, 2018 [10 favorites]

Was Keyser Soze any of them? Was it anything other than a story made up to hide other layers of deception? About the only thing we know is that a very good faker walked out of a police station after a terrible crime and one dying crew member pointing at a photo. Everything else is a story to hide other stories. A rewatch can be satisfying trying to unravel some of the layers and trying to imagine what the false story is covering up. But yeah, it's like a ghost story, spooky and can be really effective on multiple tellings but nothing actually behind any of it.
posted by sammyo at 6:48 AM on November 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Kevin Pollak was recently on the daily zeitgeist podcast, and busted the myth that the actors were in the dark about the reveal. He said something like, oh, right, people think the carefully crafted Oscar winning script didn't have the ending from the start? The twist is why some of the actors signed on in the first place.

I have fond memories of it, but as others have said, I'm not sure I want to rewatch any time soon.
posted by lovecrafty at 7:25 AM on November 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think Kevin Spacey is a fiend and yet I'd still watch this. Because it's not just his movie; it's also Benecio Del Toro's, Gabriel Byrne's, Stephen Baldwin's, Pete Postelwhaite's, Kevin Pollack's....I'll watch it for them and pretend that Kevin Spacey is some dude named Sid or something. Mind you, though, I wouldn't spend money to watch it; I'd watch a DVD from Netflix or watch it on late night cable or something.

I think I may keep an eye out next time to see if there are clues to the twist in the beginning; I kind of think there may be, they're just subtle.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:53 AM on November 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

I remember first watching it, unspoiled, around the time of the original video release - and loved it!

I've rewatched it a few times since then and its still a very entertaining movie; the individual actor's arcs are worth it.

Unfortunate about Spacey, and I agree with EmpressC - the rest of the cast shouldn't be discounted.

Zonker - my understanding was that Kint/Soze was ready to retire and disappear, just needed to tie off the remaining loose ends/ settle grudges. It doesn't matter that the cops have Kint/Soze biometrics, there are no living witnesses left to testify against him (other than the guy in the hospital). Or something - again it comes down the unreliable narration; the audience doesn't know Soze's real motivation for setting up this elaborate human Rube Goldberg machine.
posted by porpoise at 10:48 AM on November 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I watched this again fairly recently, and man, I don't know where Benicio del Toro got that character but he's so good in this.

There was some good cop flicks in this era. Seven, LA Confidential...dang, all Kevin Spacey! The second half of the 90s was still a good time for the Crime genre.
posted by rhizome at 6:15 PM on November 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

I really disliked this film when I saw it but that was about 18 years ago at this point. I just found it just oh so smug about how daring and clever it was. I also meant to rewatch since it's so loved but given the revelations about Stacey and Singer, I probably won't.
posted by octothorpe at 5:18 AM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was obsessed with this film when it came out. I remember finding the script online and noticing that everyone's character names were listed normally, except for some reason, Kobayashi is "the man known as Kobayashi." I wondered if that was some kind of a tell from McQuarrie and proceeded to rewatch the film every day for a week, trying to see each character as Soze. Ah, college.

It's a great-looking film, stylish and colorful. I remember several men's fashion magazines did splashy features about the costumes and the look. The John Ottman soundtrack is excellent, too, a real standout, with several memorable themes.

(Random thing I noticed: the location used for Dean Keaton's apartment is also Viggo Mortensen's apartment in the excellent direct-to-video action movie American Yakuza.)

Numaner, it's difficult to describe how mind-blowing this film was when it came out. This was pre-Shyamalan. The twist ending was not cliche yet; it was not done commonly at all. 90's thrillers and horror films had twists at the end sometimes, but this was different. Most people came to The Usual Suspects on video just knowing it had won an Oscar-- so it was respectable and more widely seen. Plus the internet was not widespread enough for most people to have been spoiled or discuss the film at all.

This was only Singer's second film. His first film has definite pacing flaws but it's worth seeing for the wonderful performance by the late Ron Marquette. I think it's clear that Singer's good with actors. The Usual Suspects benefits from that and from having a lot of great ones who have a lot to give. I know I'm heaping praise on this film, but I'm not saying that lightly. The casting for this film was amazing--you can look at the filmography for almost any of the actors who play named characters in it and find another dozen great films to watch. The script was clever and it attracted interesting people.
posted by heatvision at 5:32 AM on November 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

Thanks for the film history lesson! That's interesting to know that such twists wasn't common, as I expected.

I also had mixed feelings about Spacey and Bryan Singer. While talent doesn't excuse terrible behavior, there's a historical significance for expression of these talents. I can only hope upcoming talents are inspired by their work and not their personalities.

Also this was in fact a DVD from Netflix I'd plainly forgot about for a year and a nine months sooo I felt like I really had to watch it and return it.
posted by numaner at 10:30 PM on November 11, 2018

Not to derail but my problem with rewatching the Usual Suspects isn't JUST Spacey but also Bryan Singer.
posted by miss-lapin at 9:53 AM on November 12, 2018

In the late 90s my friends and I were always hanging out in a group and often talking about movies or whatever and the idea of spoiler warnings wasn't really a thing - people would just tell you about whatever they'd seen and keep going. However, I recall two times that The Usual Suspects came up and people knew I hadn't seen it so they would clam up and change the subject. I thought it was so strange! My friends actively avoided spoiling a movie. What could be so important? All they'd say is "you have to see it" but this was long before Netflix and we didn't rent that many movies and it just never came up.

But one day while I was in line at the movie rental place I saw a previously-viewed for sale bin and right on top was The Usual Suspects for $10 - I feel I should clarify that I'm talking about a VHS cassette here, since this took place in 1998 or so - and I thought, "Oh what the hell" and just straight up bought the thing.

I went home, and none of my roommates were there so I just sat and watched it by myself and when the end came I was blown. away. Couldn't process what I'd seen, it was the height of Cool Movie Trick. I rewound the tape and as it finished up a friend of one of my roommates knocked on our front door.

"Is Ross here?"

"No. Have you seen The Usual Suspects?"

"No, why?"

"Have a seat."

and that's how I ended up watching it twice in one evening.

Honestly that's probably where I'll leave it - a great fun movie that I watched probably a dozen times in my 20s well before I realized how many people involved were shitheads whose presence would sour a re-watch.
posted by komara at 11:39 AM on November 12, 2018 [9 favorites]

There’s a handful of movies where part of my memory of seeing it is suddenly sitting up straight in surprise and delight, and I can feel my face pulling back into a huge grin. Like seeing an impossible magic trick for the first time. This is one of those movies.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:49 PM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

My dad was not very approachable for me and this was one of the only movies I ever asked him like dood, have you seen this? He was the biggest Chazz Palminteri fan for the rest of his life.
posted by rhizome at 7:38 PM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I watched this with my kid yesterday, who was suitably impressed but immediately called out the bullshit with the reveal at the end about Soze taking the idea for the "fat, like orca-fat" guy from the mugshot of the fat woman. It was bad enough in and of itself, even if you could possibly excuse it as the character being obnoxious not the movie. But the cut to an even closer shot as he says "orca fat" is all the movie's choice and it is super gross.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:13 AM on September 29, 2022

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