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The Usual Suspects

Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey
Director: Bryan Singer
Genre: Thriller
Year: 1995
Rating: 5 / 5

When it was released in 1995, The Usual Suspects was hailed as original, inventive, and, most of all, unpredictable. Having now seen this movie well over a dozen times, I can say that its impact is just as powerful today as it was the first time I saw it. In what I consider to be the best movie-making year of all-time, The Usual Suspects nonetheless distinguishes itself from everything else, offering a fresh take on the mystery and suspense genre.

As The Usual Suspects opens, we find "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey, in an Oscar-winning role) the object of a police interrogation. He is one of only two known survivors of an explosive evening on a docked cargo ship, and the police want answers. Verbal was one of an elite group of known criminals involved in a police lineup in New York five weeks prior, and the rest are presumed to be dead from the previous night's explosion. From this opening interrogation, soon conducted solely by Special Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri), we are shown pieces of the puzzle that lead to the events on the cargo ship.

Five convicted felons - Spencer McManus (Stephen Baldwin, The Young Riders), Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak, A Few Good Men), and Verbal Kint - are brought in to answer for charges of gun-theft, a crime for which all five profess their innocence. Crowded together in their cell, however, McManus is able to convince most of the others that these charges are not just an inconvenience, but an opportunity. Their combined talents would be perfectly suited to a job he has in mind, if he can convince the now-straight Keaton to return to his old ways. Keaton has attempted to set himself up as a respectable businessman, yet his past continues to haunt him, to the point where the authorities will not allow him to lead a normal life. Convinced of this, Keaton reluctantly climbs aboard, and the chase is on.

As the action swerves from New York City to California, the group begins to discover that they are no longer working for themselves, but a mysterious behind-the-scenes individual, known only by his messenger, Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite). It seems the group's services are needed to destroy $91 million worth of cocaine on a cargo ship. Upon completion of this task, the ominous, threatening presence of Kobayashi and his master will be gone, and the five can resume their lives as they see fit. No one knows for sure what to make of this mission, yet each knows that it is one which must be completed, for they do not wish to have to answer to Kobayashi.

Superbly acted, The Usual Suspects jerks the viewer back and forth between various theories throughout the movie. This group of then-unknown actors delivers in many ways, and the viewer is glued to his seat right up until the thrilling conclusion. If you have already had the pleasure of viewing this movie, see it again. If not, be sure to give this modern classic a chance. These five suspects are anything but, and this movie is definitely not the usual fare.

Cast:
Stephen Baldwin..........Spencer McManus
Gabriel Byrne..........Dean Keaton
Benicio Del Toro..........Fred Fenster
Kevin Pollak..........Todd Hockney
Kevin Spacey.........."Verbal" Kint
Chazz Palminteri..........Dave Kujan
Pete Postlethwaite..........Kobayashi

Certification: Rated R for violence and language.
Running Time: 106 minutes.

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