The Usual Suspects 1995 movie

The Usual Suspects – An unforgettable two-sided mirror of noir cinema

Today’s movie certainly doesn’t need my recommendation, as The Usual Suspects was one of the biggest hits in 1995 and a magnificent noir that still now establishes the standard for all new aspiring filmmakers.

After an explosive start aboard a ship in Los Angeles harbor, we move on to six weeks earlier when police arrest five crooks in New York for robbery and brought to the station for a lineup.

The group includes the wise and wry Hockney with his two friends Fenster and McManus, the semi-paralyzed con man Verbal Kint, and the notorious Dean Keaton, a former cop turned criminal who is obviously much hated by his former colleagues.

None of them stay long in jail, and then they decide to take revenge for their treatment by the police and rob some corrupt officers.

Subsequently, the five boys move on to Los Angeles, expecting to launder the money and to be quieter while the hype over their robbery dies down.

But tranquility will not be what awaits them, as they will fall into a trap and forced to kill by the unscrupulous lawyer Kobayashi.

Although he seems very powerful and knows every secret of their lives, he is not the one calling the shots behind the curtain.

Indeed, behind him is the mysterious Keyser Söze, a legendary boss who long ago fled Eastern Europe after a rival gang massacred his family.

Since then, Söze has lived in anonymity, no one knows his face or true identity, and he is absolutely determined to force the five criminals to storm a ship at the Port of Los Angeles to blow a $91 million deal between two dangerous gangs of Argentines and Hungarians.

Unfortunately, as we know well from the beginning, everything will go horribly wrong for everyone.

A new Singer is on the stage

In 1995, The Usual Suspects was a movie that immediately etched its mark on the popular imagination and revealed to us the innovative genius of Bryan Singer.

It was a milestone in the director’s career, laying the groundwork for the opening of the viral X-Men saga that later became even more successful and allowed him to reach an even wider audience.

His direction’ is a fresh throwback to the classic noir atmospheres from the 1940s and 1950s with a thriller in which deception and suspicion weave a plot thick with mystery and where trust is a luxury no one can afford.

Even we viewers are the objects of Singer’s manipulation, which distorts reality through old-fashioned cinematographic techniques and John Ottman‘s masterful montage.

Ottman excels in editing and composes the soundtrack that blends harmoniously with the visual sequences, creating a hypnotic and memorable effect amplifying Christopher McQuarrie‘s brilliant screenplay to the fullest.

A ruthless and polished piece of writing, critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning, McQuarrie’s care for detail and focus on every single line of dialogue in a plot full of clues and seemingly insignificant details that, in the end, turn out to be key pieces of the puzzle.

The epilogue, portrayed by the shattering of a cup on the ground, also shatters our illusion. This moment swept away our perception of reality as the curtain rose to reveal the final deception.

This is the instant we realize the true mastery of Singer, whose greatest trick, precisely as true for the diabolical and shifty Keyser Söze, is to convince us that no one can ever repeat a thriller of this caliber.

Because after more than an hour and forty of cinematic climax, like that, and poof…. he’s gone.

Never try to shoot the Devil

Equally unforgettable is undoubtedly the formidable ensemble of actors who contribute significantly to building the mosaic of murder, robbery, and deception typical of this kind of charming noir.

Among the performers, Chazz Palminteri stands out as the persistent David Kujan, a keen truth-seeker with a refined elegance and indomitable determination.

Throughout the movie, Palminteri’s character relentlessly interrogates the brilliant Kevin Spacey, Oscar-winning supporting actor, here at his artistic peak.

The voices of these two characters serve as the narrative thread, leading us through a maze of lies and half-truths that outline the lives of this ill-fated outlaw gang.

At the head of this group stands out the stubborn and cynical Gabriel Byrne, whom I had recently recommended in the role of a young Nazi in the bizarre horror The Keep.

Here he plays a man forced back into crime who, despite his attempts for redemption, falls again into the pit by the irresistible smell of money.

Kevin Pollak shines as the punchy Todd Hockney, a lonely short guy who is also a rugged individual who is best not to be messed with.

Along with him are then Stephen Baldwin and Benicio del Toro, a bold young duo who provide a breath of fresh air and a dash of humor that yet, despite their laid-back appearance, it is wise not to underestimate as ferocity and determination.

Finally, Pete Postlethwaite‘s excellent and controlled performance as lawyer Kobayashi deserves distinct credit.

As the official spokesman for the shadowy Keyser Söze, this character, while maintaining a calm demeanor, evokes a feeling of unease and fear, being the shadow of a name that, despite few believing he really exists, instills fear in everyone.

In conclusion, for those who haven’t figured it out yet, there is very little usual about The Usual Suspects, a 1995 movie that was a turning point for an entire strand of a cinematic genre and made a whole audience of young and invigorated viewers love noir stories again.

The Usual Suspects 1995 movie
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