“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
As part of Moon in Gemini’s “It Takes a Thief” Blogathon, I’m writing about one of my favorite noir films, The Usual Suspects AKA the greatest plot twist in history. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, then be warned – there be spoilers here. And I know Kevin Spacey is in it and everyone is dropping him like a hot potato but it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of my best heist movies ever and there are, like, ten other amazing actors in the film. So the choice of film… and Spacey stay.
Where were we? Here’s the original 90’s-feel trailer:
This is one of my best movies ever, right up there with L.A. Confidential and While You Were Sleeping (I know, I know… a rom-com somehow doesn’t belong in that list but it’s still my favorite along with Four Weddings and a Funeral). It takes American neo-noir to a whole new level and then there’s the plot twist that just warps your mind.
One of the things I love about the movie is the ensemble cast. There are many excellent players here, all of them not exactly innocent. There’s Keaton who’s a dirty cop trying to go clean after he falls in love with a criminal lawyer who’s too efficient at her job. He’s played by the dreamy Gabriel Byrne. McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Hockney (Kevin Pollak), Fenster (Benicio del Toro who doesn’t even get credited in the poster that’s how new he was!), and con artist Verbal Kint who has cerebral palsy (Kevin Spacey) round out the rest of the usual suspects that make up the famous lineup poster. Then there’s U.S. Customs special agent, David Kujan played by Chazz Palmintieri, and Pete Postlewaite as Mr. Kobayashi.
Another thing I love about it is the way the story is revealed to you, shifting between the past via flashbacks and the present. What starts out as a simple story about a deadly incident in a San Pedro, California shipyard turns into a complicated tale of lies, deceit, and murder.
And then there’s that plot twist but I’m not going to reveal that here. You have to see it to appreciate it and maybe watch the movie again this time with an awareness of what is unfolding as you try to connect the dots. Try being the operative word here.
I love layered stories, especially the ones that have me still asking questions so many years later. Alas, many of my friends and family have never seen The Usual Suspects and if they have, don’t think it’s that great. But it is. It’s an acquired taste and a storyteller’s dream.
A little tidbit: Benicio del Toro, upon learning that the purpose of his character, Fenster, was to be the first one to die (I know, spoiler) decided to mumble all his lines with the blessing of the director, Bryan Singer, thus making his character memorable to viewers – and he was right. He did think he was never going to work in Hollywood as soon as he finished filming his scenes (come to think of it, his name’s not even on the poster!) but boy, was he wrong.
And now I have to park this other video here. The Making of Usual Suspects. Are you kidding me? I have to!