From beginning to end, the story is overwhelmed by style. This is a time to forget the plot for once and concentrate on enjoying an actors' field day with a good script.
"The Usual Suspects" is confusing, implausible, and very successful. If that's convoluted, so is the movie. It shows that a cast with self-confidence and style can take a plot full of holes and wrap it in panache. It doesn't matter a whit that nothing in the movie makes sense. Just watching the chaos unfold in the hands of these actors is reward enough.
The film opens with a rare moment of clarity as five very literate felons appear in a police lineup. Tossed into a communal jail cell, McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), Hockney (Kevin Pollak), Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), and Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) wonder why the cream of their criminal crop would be rounded up and impounded together, but proceed anyway to plan an operation so undefined that is impossible to describe, much less understand.
There is a lot of dying in this movie, but it's fairly impersonal because the trigger man usually lurks in the shadows, of which there are many. Twenty-seven bodies are laid out on a pier in the opening scene, and the movie works its way backward from there, trying to figure out who they are and how they got there. What we do know is that the dazzling finale is the illogical outcome of the jail cell plotting session.
Over the whole intricate web hangs the spectre of Keyser Soze, an infamous villain who assumed mythical qualities in the criminal world after committing some unimaginable symbolic gesture. The unseen Soze sends Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite), a chillingly cruel emissary, to our quintet of bandits. It is Kobayashi who inspires terror the old-fashioned way: with cold eyes and words far more powerful than guns. Postlethwaite freezes us in our seats with his performance.
Chazz Palminteri puts his personal stamp on a good cop determined to untangle the yarn, and the gifted Suzy Amis is on hand as the lawyer who inspires in Keaton dreams of going straight, but hers is virtually a non-speaking part. This is a movie about bad guys doing bad things with eccentricity and style. How long has it been since you sat frozen, watching a hatch lever turning in the belly of a ship, knowing that the devil himself is on the other side?
Director Bryan Singer has created the feel of a sophisticated 30s mystery; Christopher McQuarrie delivers the dialogue in a great mix of standard four-letter stuff and cerebral criminal thinking; each actor in this first-rate cast makes his character memorable. It's a hat trick.
From beginning to end, the story is overwhelmed by style. This is a time to forget the plot for once and concentrate on enjoying an actors' field day with a good script. Newton Thomas Sigel's photography is wildly sophisticated and works with John Ottman's ominous score as a real suspense builder. You may well find delicious pleasure in being thoroughly caught up in a movie you don't understand. Remember, nothing's perfect.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Gramercy Pictures
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h45m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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