tek's rating: ¾

The Usual Suspects (R)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

Who is Keyser Söze? That question has made me want to see this movie ever since it was first released, and I finally caught it on TV, 10 years later. And now... I still can't say with 100% certainty that I know the answer, but I probably do, and at least I finally know what the question even means. Anyway, there are five criminals who the NYPD rounded up, trying to figure out who hijacked a truck full of firearms, though this charge appears to be trumped up. The criminals include a former crooked cop named Dean Keaton, who was trying to go straight; a small time crook named Roger "Verbal" Kint; and three other guys named Michael McManus, Fred Fenster, and Todd Hockney. None of them can be held for the truck hijacking, but while in custody they plan a jewel heist together, as well as a plan to get revenge against the police.

The revenge thing goes alright, but the gems they intended to steal turn out to be drugs. This job was in California, where McManus knew a fence named Redfoot. Redfoot didn't know anything about the drugs, but arranged a meeting with his employer, a lawyer named Kobayashi. Kobayashi claimed he was employed by a man named Keyser Söze. Verbal had never heard of him, but the others recognized the name right away. Apparently he's some kind of criminal mastermind, who no one's even sure actually exists or not. He's like a bogeyman of the criminal underworld. And Kobayashi says that each of these five men have at various points unwittingly stolen from Söze, who now demands they make it up to him by spoiling a drug deal for a group of Argentinians with whom Söze has been in competition. These five are to destroy all the drugs on the boat where the deal is going down, and then they may keep any money they find (which should be $91 million).

I should note that pretty much everything we see is told in intermittent flashbacks by Verbal to a federal agent named Kujan, in an interrogation back in New York following the job the criminals pulled for Söze. Which, by the way, had gone horribly wrong. There weren't any drugs on the boat, and pretty much everyone on the boat had been killed, and it seems as if the point of the job was actually to kill a man who could identify Söze. While Verbal is being interrogated, elsewhere a survivor of the incident on the boat is receiving emergency medical treatment, but also describes Söze to a sketch artist.

In the end Kujan has to let Verbal go, but shortly thereafter comes to a conclusion that I suspect most viewers will have suspected all along. Although, it's really never more than suspicion, the movie's ending suggests it strongly, but it isn't conclusive, really. It does, however, force one to wonder just how much of Verbal's story can be believed. In any event, I thought the movie was pretty good, even if I wasn't always entirely clear about what was going on. It's definitely all quite intriguing. No doubt I should have rated the film higher, but... I dunno, I guess my enjoyment of the movie wasn't quite on a par with my perception of its objective quality. I definitely enjoyed it, though. Maybe I'll change my rating if I ever watch it again. (Probably I will. Looking back at this review years after I wrote it, without having seen the movie again, I'm shocked I didn't rate it higher. Now I really want to watch it again just to figure out what I should really rate it.)


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