The Usual Suspects –– directed by Bryan Singer in 1995 –– is a film that revolves around a heist, and a heist crew, but that does not make it a heist film. The Usual Suspects can be classified as a “whodunit?” film or in classier terms: a murder mystery. The film follows “Verbal” Kint, played by Kevin Spacey, who is the survivor of a shipyard heist gone wrong; he is also the sole surviving member of the heist crew involved. Verbal is dragged into the police station, where he tells the story of how he and four other guys brought into a police line up form a crew, which leads them to commit a suicidal harbor heist to repay a debt to a mysterious crime boss who somehow knows each of the team members quite well, without any of them ever remembering meeting him.
The heist crew consists of: McManus ( Stephen Baldwin), The reluctant leader Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), Verbal (Spacey), and my two favorites, the incomprehensible Fenster (played by a young Benicio Del Toro), and mad eyed Hockney (Kevin Pollak). Like Reservoir Dogs, The Usual Suspects is an actor’s film.
The heist crew is excellent. They all know each other from different affiliations, and range from pure professionals to rookies, but they don’t know each other well enough to be certain that all is as it seems. The beginning of the film reveals that one member betrayed the rest and accusations start to come out that one of the members is none other than the mysterious and fear-inducing Keyser Soze (think the Bogey Man if he was a mob boss). The movie works to keep you guessing (and keep in mind the entire story is told through the subjective perspective of Verbal Kint who is known for being a con man). I guessed the identity of Soze pretty quickly, but it didn’t make the film any less enjoyable, as it is still considered one of the greatest twists in cinema.
Now back to the actors. The lead heist men are all wonderful they work off each other perfectly. Their scenes can smoothly switch from playful banter to serious planning in the blink of an eye. Kevin Spacey is one of the most charismatic mofos around and one of my favorite actors. Spacey could successfully steal and sell me back my kidney –– he’s that cool. Spacey even plays the runt of the crew who talks simple and has a limp, yet Spacey retains his signature stone cold smoothness.
Young Benicio Del Toro is hilarious; he talks like he just ate a pack of cigarettes and the fact that these guys can only somewhat understand what he is saying, is great.
Kevin Pollak is wild as the unstable Hockney, and gets the best lines of the film. Baldwin and Byrne are also great, but the former three steal the show. The supporting cast is also good but they don’t have enough screen time to in anyway outshine the leads.
This film contains multiple heists pulled by the crew. The major one is the heist that takes place at the docks, but my personal favorite is the first job the crew pulls together. It involves speed, vans, and a shotgun. The first is quick and efficient, like a well pulled heist should be. The final one is good but it takes up a large portion of the third act of the film and doesn’t heat up until the guys are on the boat and Keyser Soze is starting his rampage. People who like mysteries will have a fun time with this film and people who like heists will also enjoy it. It’s a damn good heist film for not actually being a heist film.
The first heist is an amazing heist and showed how good of a crew these guys were.
Written by Tyler Ducheneaux
Images from The Usual Suspects