Announcing a new Meetup for Los Angeles Film Enthusiasts!What
: The Usual Suspects w/Bryan Singer Q&A @ The Aero on Thursday, 10/7 at 7:30pmWhen
: Thursday, October 7,[masked]:30 PMWhere
: Aero Theatre
1328 Montana Ave crosstreet: 14th St.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310)[masked] or (323) 466-FILM
EDIT: The original calendar setting was October 15th. I've changed this to match the headline, which had the accurate version: Thursday, October 7th.
One of the quintessential dude flicks from the Nineties, Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects
was revered and reviled by critics when it first hit the scene. Some found the plot engagingly complex, others found it exasperatingly convoluted. And in 1995, all critics seemed to be in a competition for how many movies they could compare to Pulp Fiction
. These days, judging from reviewer scores, it looks like it's always been a critics' favorite.
The tote board: 8.7 on IMDB, 87% (critics) and 95% (audience) on RT.The Usual Suspects
is great fun if you don't take it too seriously. It's the story of five criminals rounded up for interrogation, each trying to figure out which one of them was the snitch. It features great plot twists, snappy verbal machismo, and awesome performances from Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Kevin Spacey and Chazz Palminteri.
Come see The Usual Suspects
next Thursday (October 7th) at the Aero, where director Bryan Singer will be appearing for a discussion following the film.
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Janet Maslin's original NYT review:The tough guys of "The Usual Suspects" radiate confidence in their own movie-mythic possibilities, secure in the knowledge that they are this year's Reservoir Dogs. And it's not even a stretch, since Bryan Singer's immensely stylish film noir incorporates so many good masculine roles and such terse, literate conversational sparring. With these advantages, "The Usual Suspects" goes straight to cult status without quite touching one important base: the audience's emotions. This movie finally isn't anything more than an intricate feat of gamesmanship, but it's still quite something to see.
And it has been made to be seen twice, with a plot guaranteed to create minor bewilderment the first time around. Mr. Singer and the screenwriter, Christopher McQuarrie, whose collaboration on "Public Access" won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival two years ago, include a great many hints and nuances that won't be noticeable until you know which Suspect bears the most watching. Suffice it to say that this film's trickiest role is handled with supreme slyness. And that acting of that caliber, plus a whopper of an ending, compensates for some inevitable head-scratching on the way home.
It's no surprise that this film's poster art, featuring five intriguing miscreants in a police lineup, was an important early aspect of its creation. Beyond following the demands of an unusually dense mystery plot, Mr. Singer and Mr. McQuarrie have also worked overtime at generating visual interest in their story. Even the jail cell looks eye-catchingly sleek when Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Hockney (Kevin Pollak), Fenster (Benicio Del Toro) and Roger (Verbal) Kint (Kevin Spacey) are locked up together one fateful evening. "It was all the cops' fault," Verbal later remembers. "You don't put guys like that in a room together." Not unless you want the endless set of high-testosterone conversational stand-offs that help keep "The Usual Suspects" perpetually on its toes.
The five New York cellmates, who seem to have been rounded up at random, are soon embroiled in a crime scheme that we know will lead, since the film is structured in flashback, to an explosion on a pier in California. In the aftermath of those fireworks, the story is being unraveled by three separate investigators (Chazz Palminteri, Dan Hedaya and Giancarlo Esposito), with the help of Verbal, who has survived to explicate the tale.
It involves figures as wildly mysterious as Keyser Soze, the fierce, off-camera Hungarian who is referred to as "the devil himself" and whose very name seems to give the film makers a noirish thrill. Keyser Soze is as fabulously improbable as Pete Postlethwaite's Kobayashi, whose dark makeup and Pakistani accent just dare the viewer to call his bluff. It ultimately isn't best to do so, since "The Usual Suspects" has become so exhaustingly convoluted by the time it ends that some of its unraveled threads lead nowhere. But the film's secrets are also held together by dialogue of quiet ferocity: "Keyser always said, 'I believe in God and I'm afraid of Him.' Well, I believe in God and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze."
Mr. Singer has assembled a fine ensemble cast of actors who can parry such lines, and whose performances mesh effortlessly despite their exaggerated differences in demeanor. (Mr. Baldwin's mad-dog jokester, for instance, matches Mr. Byrne's elegant businessman without missing a beat.) Without the violence or obvious bravado of "Reservoir Dogs," these performers still create strong and fascinatingly ambiguous characters. Mr. Spacey, so good in "Swimming With Sharks" this year, joins Mr. Palminteri to give the interrogation scenes a particular charge.
"The Usual Suspects" also benefits from Newton Thomas Sigel's handsome, moody cinematography, and from John Ottman's services as both editor and composer. His brooding score effectively summons Bernard Herrmann. And his editing of the film's finale is gratifyingly sensible, a lot more so than the secrets being revealed.
"The Usual Suspects" is rated R (Under 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian). It includes brief violence and loads of profane tough-guy talk.
RSVP to this Meetup:http://www.meetup.com/West-los-Angeles-film-fanatics-group/calendar/14968267/