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The Usual Suspects (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
The Usual Suspects (DVD)
Advantages: Excellent thriller, great performances
Disadvantages: None for me
Verbal is played by Kevin Spacey in what I think is easily his best performance. Spacey has the ability to be suave and good-looking, creepy or a total innocent, depending on what role he takes on. Here, he borders on the innocent, for all he's a career criminal, and it is easy to feel sympathy for him. Nevertheless, there is a streak of iron in there as he masterminds the heist and there is enough about him to keep the audience's interest. The whole story revolves around him, so it is lucky that Spacey is talented enough to carry the role, and then towards the end, he shows just how outstanding he is in a way that I can't divulge for fear of ruining the plot. Suffice it to say, I think Spacey is a great actor anyway, but this role is outstanding.
Gabriel Byrne is another excellent actor and plays Dean Keaton, a dodgy businessman and ex-police officer who is trying to go straight. He is very reluctant to become involved in the heist, but feels he has no choice; unfortunately, before he knows it, he is in over his head. Keaton is a scary man, one moment apparently collected, the next, with an evil glint in his eye, and Byrne manages to portray it perfectly, so that it is never entirely clear whether he is all he seems. I just wish he'd spoken with his usual Irish accent rather than an American one - not that the American one isn't good, but his Irish accent is just delicious! The other three men, played by Benecio del Toro, Kevin Pollack and Stephen Baldwin are also great, but are over-shadowed by Spacey and Byrne, partially at least due to the fact that their on-screen time is short.
Pete Postlethwaite plays Kobayashi, a minion of Keyser Soze (who is never really seen). Postlethwaite seems to have made his name as a character actor in Hollywood films and it's always good to see him. However, this one is slightly odd. Kobayashi is a Japanese name, Postlethwaite is British and yet Kobayashi appears to be Pakistani. As it happens, it doesn't really matter, but I did find it puzzling and slightly distracting! The officer interviewing Verbal is played by Chazz Palminteri - his role is limited because he's stuck in an office asking questions, but I thouight he did a great job anyway and really helped keep the flow of the film going smoothly.
The best part of the film, however, is not the acting, excellent as that is, but the story and the way it is told. Right from the first scene, where a police officer is covering up dead bodies on a boat, my interest was piqued and the fact that it is then partially narrated by Verbal and partially shown to us first-hand is really excellent. It has to be said though that what puts this film head and shoulders above most of its genre is the ending. I'm usually quite good at guessing where a film is heading and I did have an inkling at one point, but was soon side-tracked. By the end of the film, I was left with the impression that I had just watched something very special, and that rarely happens to me these days.
This is only Bryan Singer's second or third film as a director and I can't help but think it's a pity he delved into films like X-Men and Superman after this. Then again, there wasn't much chance that he was going to be able to improve on this had he gone down the thriller route, so perhaps he made the right decision. He is ably assisted by a taut script to Christopher Macquarrie. What I liked about the script was that there was no wasted speech. Everything that was said was important to the story, even though it wasn't always obvious at first. This makes it a great film to re-watch because, although the twist in the tale won't be a suprise, there are nuances that not everyone will pick up the first or even second time. That really doesn't matter though, because the film is still strong enough to impress at the first watch.
There is a classification of 18 on the film, which is perhaps a little steep. There is a fair amount of violence, of course, with people being shot right left and centre. There is also a lot of nastiness. However, on the whole, I've seen much worse - The Dark Knight for starters - and a 15 might have been more sensible. Nevertheless, if you want to cut down on the amount of violence that your teenager is open to, then you may want to check it out before they watch it.
I have the two disc special edition (which I picked up from a car boot for just £1 - bargain!) and it is packed with extras. On the disc with the film, there are two audio commentaries. On the extra disc, there's a whole ream of features, which are interesting, although by the end of them, I thought it was overkill because a lot of information was repeated. Nevertheless, it was interesting to find out how and why the actors were chosen, how Singer filmed it, and best of all, there's plenty of Gabriel Byrne's gorgeous Irish accent. There's also a feature on presenting the film at Cannes. Finally, there's a collection of bloopers, which are only vaguely amusing.
I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller and most definitely recommend any fan of thrillers, especially something like The Departed, to see it if they haven't already. Some may find a little slow to start with, although I didn't, but it really is worth paying attention, because it does eventually make sense and you will feel a massive amount of satisfaction when it does. And on top of a really great story, Spacey and Byrne give outstanding performances. Definitely one to watch. Five stars out of five.
The DVD (the two disc special edition) is available from play.com for £4.99.
Running time: 106 minutes
Summary: Absolutely a must-see