The Usual Suspects (1995)

So, spoilers: The Usual Suspects is actually pretty shitty.

The Usual Suspects - Keyser Söze

It has a good reputation in a many quarters, launching the career of Bryan Singer (who went on to direct some good X-Men films and a critically-reviled Superman reboot) and featuring lynchpin performances from Kevin Spacey and Gabriel Byrne. It’s mostly remembered for that twist, one of the most memorable of the twist-heavy nineties (recently hilariously parodied in Happy Endings).

Yeah, Singer’s direction has a couple great moments: there’s an inspired crane shot (reused twice) and the editing of the climactic twist goes a long way towards explaining why it’s so effective. And Spacey (and to a lesser extent, Posthlethwaite and Byrne) does an impressive job, a few years before his slide into later-era Pacino-esque overacting.

But there’s so little to the film. The narrative is hopelessly reliant on the twist. There’s an uninteresting small-time crooks storyline jazzed up with the “Who is Keyser Söze” hook. You can improve average films with a clever twist that rewards rewatching, but there’s nothing of the sort here: an unreliable narrator means that a rewatch only reveals the shallowness of the screenplay; there’s no reason to believe that anything in the film actually happened.

Rating: 110/200

9 thoughts on “The Usual Suspects (1995)

  1. Awesome blog – consider yourself followed! I get what you’re saying about the screenplay, but I think it makes it all the more amazing, the first time I saw it I thought it was incredible – the way it sells you on one story before pulling the rug from under your feet, it may diminish after one view but I think that overall it’s just a great example of storytelling

    • Thanks for the reply and follow!

      I get your perspective, that the film is amazing on first viewing, and, yeah, it kinda is. I really loved it the first time I saw it, but I’ve seen it twice since then and it hasn’t done much for me since.

      I guess it depends on your own criteria for what makes a film great – I love watching films over and over again, so a film that only really works well once isn’t my thing. It also just doesn’t stand up to analysis, as most films with big twists should: as I mentioned in the review, so many major plot points of the film may have not happened at all!

  2. I guess you have a point that the big twist works only the first time you see it and that there are some unnecessary plot ponts but I have a soft spot for this one. Maybe because it’s one of movies that I love watching with my cousin and maybe because Kevin Spacey is superb, in my humble opinion. I liked your point of view though. Makes me consider the movies with big twist 🙂

    • I do enjoy Kevin Spacey’s performance in this a great deal (though I was surprised to find it was Best Supporting Actor Oscar worthy!), and there are some nice touches in there…I just feel like there isn’t enough meat to it for a rewatch. If the hijacking plotline was more exciting, a different story, but all the action scenes didn’t do anything for me.

      Thanks for your thoughts – having different points of view about films is what makes talking about them interesting!

      • I agree, I enjoy seeing what other people think, especially about the films I like. And there are things that could be better in The Usual suspects but it’s a pretty good movie after all 🙂

  3. you know, I’ve been meaning to rewatch The Usual Suspects to see if I enjoyed it much the second time, but I think you may have just saved me a good 90 minutes.

  4. Usual suspects is actually matter fact i matter fact is that this is one of the best movies ever made, and of course th and of course the ending is what make this movi this movie so interesting. suspense movies of all timei and on the top 10 gansters movies of all time

  5. Pingback: Predestination (2014) | ccpopculture

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