tek's rating:

The Usual Suspects (R)
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Caution: spoilers. (But not that one.)

Who is Keyser Söze? That question has made me want to see this movie ever since it was first released (in 1995), 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 (Gabriel Byrne), who was trying to go straight; a small time crook named Roger "Verbal" Kint; and three other guys named Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Fred Fenster (Benicio del Toro), and Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak). 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 then they have to go to L.A., where McManus knows a fence named Redfoot. He gets them involved in another job, which doesn't go so well. Later, Redfoot arranges a meeting with the guy who'd hired him, a lawyer named Kobayashi. Kobayashi claims to 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 Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri), in an interrogation at the LAPD, in the office of a cop named Jeff Rabin (Dan Hedaya), 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. Oh, and there's an FBI agent named Jack Baer (Giancarlo Esposito), who's also investigating the incident at the boat, and who becomes particularly interested in the possibility of catching Keyser Söze.

In the end Kujan has to let Verbal go, but shortly thereafter comes to a conclusion that I expect most viewers will have suspected all along. (But of course, I won't spoil that conclusion.) In any event, I thought the movie was pretty good, quite intriguing. (Looking back at this review years after I wrote it, without having seen the movie again, I was shocked I didn't rate it higher. It was two and 3/4 smileys. I figured if I ever did get to see it again, I'd probably rate it higher than I had originally. And I was right; I got it on DVD in 2017, and changed my rating to four smileys.)

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