The Usual Suspects (1995) – Film Review

We commemorate Pete Postlewaite's career with a review of The Usual Suspects...

Before the days of bringing comic book heroes to the screen, Bryan Singer made a little film on a $6 million budget and shot it in just 35 days. That film created was The Usual Suspects. Featuring a collective of the best acting talent of the 1990’s including Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Pete Postlethwaite, Stephen Baldwin and Benicio Del Toro, it soon became one of the most talked about climatic film endings in cinema’s history.

What started from an idea of a poster of five guys in a police line up soon became the intense story of a $91 million dollar narcotics deal going seriously wrong. Told through the eyes of Verbal Kint, it takes not only Detective Kujan but the audience too on a dramatic tale through the events leading up to the climatic harbour explosion in San Pedro.

Kint (Kevin Spacey) reveals how he and his four partners, Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Fenster (Benicio Del Toro) and Hockney (Kevin Pollak) were all brought together in a police line-up for a crime they didn’t commit and who later decided to seek revenge. It is from here that he reveals the involvement of a somewhat mysterious, if not supernatural, crime lord, Keyser Soze, someone who they had all unknowingly wronged and who wanted payback. As the interrogation continues and Verbal relays past events it soon becomes clear that not all is what it seems.

Featuring fantastic performances from its leads and a Best Supporting Actor award for Kevin Spacey in 1995, The Usual Suspects is a film that will remain a classic for a long time to come. The late Pete Postlethwaite plays Keyser Soze’s lawyer and it is a stellar turn. Calm, calculated and oozing a Zen like quality, it is a performance not to be missed.

The structure to this film is one of the keys to its success. The film begins with an ending and immediately audiences are engrossed into how it all happened. Throughout the film sequences jump between present and past events as Verbal relays his tale to Kujan. Singer uses close ups, mixtures of grey scale and bright coloured tones along with fast dialogue and wit to make this film flow energetically. It never loses its focus.

On a second watch you realise how strong the musical score is. It features no songs and consequently is purely instrumental, its haunting tones capturing attention from the very beginning. The soundtrack is so strong it should be credited as having a supporting role.

This is a film that you ask yourself ‘once I’ve watched it, can I watch it again?’ and the answer is a definite yes. If you want an example of thrilling storytelling, cut-throat acting performances and superb film making, then you will turn to The Usual Suspects time and time again.

Best performance: Gabriel Byrne for intensity and Benicio Del Toro for laughs
Best scene: The ending
Best line: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist”
Watch this if you liked:
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Kevin Spacey actually had his fingers glued together so he would give an accurate portrayal of his character’s disability.

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