Five crooks. One job. Twenty dead. And all because of some so-called Keyser Soze. But who is he, and what happened?
When a truck is hijacked and the NYPD have nothing to go on, they have five ex-cons in a criminal line up in the hope that they either reveal who was behind the attack, or fold and own up to it themselves. This was, of course, the worst possible thing the cops could have done. The five criminals then start planning a job whilst in custody which gets them discovered for something a hell of a lot bigger, but with disastrous consequences. It is the down to the one that got away, Verbal Kint (an Oscar-winning Kevin Spacey) to reveal all…
Forget algebra, trigonometry and physics, The Usual Suspects is probably the hardest work your brain will ever have to do ever again. It jumps backwards and forwards in time and is full of all manner of twists and turns that really do keep you guessing right until the very end. But if you can keep up with all the thinking involved, all the effort taken to watch it is worth it when you sit in front of the end credits going ‘Aw, that was clever’. When Sky Movies described it as a ‘devilishly clever thriller’ they certainly weren’t wrong.
Spacey won an Oscar for his role of Verbal and it was truly well deserved. The film is his retelling of events in a police station, so basically the film’s success depended upon his performance. No pressure eh, Kev? Apparently not. He was tremendous as the palsy sufferer who was pals with Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) after doing a stretch with him years back. The whole thing between Verbal and Keaton was the reliance they both sort of had on each other – Verbal on Keaton because he was his only way into the initial job with the other ex-cons, and Keaton on Verbal because he was exactly the sort of minion needed for his master plan to work – at least, that’s how it seemed. Spacey portrayed this excellently, as did Byrne. They both showed there was a lot to these men, but the majority of this remained unseen to the outside world. As Verbal so rightly said, ‘A man can convince anybody he’s anybody except himself’. Keaton was a bent cop who didn’t really seem to know what he wanted to be half the time, and Verbal often appeared to be nothing compared to the other criminals. It was a brilliant dynamic the pair had going on between them, and because of the relationship they had, I often found myself doubting who was rally governing the whole operation.
The story itself is very cleverly written and not at all predictable (if you think it is, please have a go at predicting the Lottery numbers for me because you’re clearly psychic). As I’ve already said, it was full of twists and turns that meant I for one was always second guessing myself as to what could possibly have happened for the job to go that wrong. In a way, I thought the story to be quite similar to Reservoir Dogs purely because a bunch of professional criminals got together, a botched job took place and afterwards, nobody really knew who to trust. Of course, the main difference here was, this time, the audience didn’t know either, not until the dying moments when Keyser Soze’s identity was revealed. Once again, cleverly penned and massively gripping.
Overall, I strongly believe The Usual Suspects is a film that everyone should watch at some point during their lives. Yes, it can be hard to follow, but you can truly appreciate the pure thought that has gone into the characters and the story when you finish and all, hopefully, becomes clear – and even if you don’t quite follow all of his story, Spacey’s acting should be plenty to keep you entertained.