Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Usual Suspects (1995)

WARNING: The following review will contain a major spoiler for the few fools left that have not seen The Usual Suspects.

A serendipitous evening of film! I first re-watch The Usual Suspects (a homage to film-noir) and then decide to watch Blow Out (a homage to giallo) without meaning to place them together at all. Spooky!

For some reason The Usual Suspects didn't stand out as film-noir the first time I watched it, but on this viewing it hit me like a lead-filled sap to the back of the neck. The shadows contrasting with occasional bright sunshine, a convoluted plot, revenge, wonderful camera angles (downward, upward and over shoulder), an edit to a downward shot of a cup of coffee, deep focus shots, the story told in flashbacks with a voice-over by an unreliable narrator. There was only one thing missing... a femme fatale.

Here comes the spoiler... are we ready?... last chance... Verbal Kint is the femme fatale; he starts off as fragile, vulnerable but ends up duplicitous and devious. Much like Barbara Stanwyck's character in Double Indemnity, Kint manipulates situations and people until he gets what he wants. And the big reveal? Just one of the most iconic shots in modern cinema.

The performances are excellent with Spacey being the obvious stand-out, but not forgetting Benicio del Toro's comedic turn as Fenster. Stephen Baldwin is Stephen Baldwin again.

The Usual Suspects has great screenplay and photography by Christopher McQuarrie and Newton Thomas Sigel, respectively, but what the hell happened to Bryan Singer's career after such a promising start?

Unlike the "twist-in-the-tail" movies by M. Night Shyamalan, The Usual Suspects is a film that doesn't rely on the single twist at the end to supply satisfaction, and it's worth watching several times to try and pick out the clues that lead to the lame man walking.

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