The Usual Suspects

Year: 1995
Production Co: Polygram Filmed Entertainment
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollack, Benicio Del Toro, Chazz Palmionteri, Dan Hedaya, Pete Postlethwaite

Christopher McQuarrie's script is storytelling in a pure sense, an exercise not in the kind of 'I know what's going to happen here and I look forward to seeing it' Hollywood specialises in, but the simple pleasure of being intrigued to know what's going to happen next.

You might not know how beloved the unreliable narrator of the thriller genre is among the cinerati, but the near-deification of Kurosawa's Rashomon and the employment of the device in films from Bubba Ho-Tep to Amadeus confirms its appeal.

A merchant ship is hit in a sting late one night by a gang of criminals hoping to lift the drug haul on board. Most of the Eastern European crew and several of the gang are dead after it's over. The cops pick up the meek Verbal Kint (Spacey), and bullish detective Kujan (Palminteri) is determined to get the full story out of the man with the limp and the partly deformed hand before the order to release him from very high up the food chain is executed.

Verbal spins the story of himself and his associates, bought together for a series of cons and the resulting uneasy relationship that ensues. When the lawyer/right hand man (Postlethwaite) of notorious, feared mobster Keyser Sozé shows up with dirt on every one of them, it's blackmail to get them to pull one last job to pay back his nefarious boss for the damage they've caused to his operation.

What gives the story all its flesh is the characters, all of which could have been hammy stand-ins for Kint's story. But from the cynical Dean (Byrne) who's trying to go straight and enjoy his new lady love, the unhinged McManus (Baldwin) who's too free with his trigger finger and the mumbling Fenster (Del Toro), every character is a seedy delight to watch.

Of course, the thirty second sucker punch of the big reveal is now movie lore, and you're probably one of three kinds of film fans. You've either seen it, watched it a few times and look forward to Kint's magnum opus with relish, you might not have seen it but know the famous twist after reading and hearing 'who is Keyser Sozé?' a hundred times, or you know nothing about it. If the latter is you, you're in for a treat.

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