During this month of 90’s-Vember we have talked about how a lot of movies over the years get boiled down to the shallow of terms. It might be a catchphrase that sticks, one moment in the film, an actor’s personal life behind the scenes at the time or a twist ending. In the 90’s The Sixth Sense, Se7en and The Usual Suspects are now all remembered for their shocking endings. This is not fair to any of the movies. The Sixth Sense was a well written and acted film that was(both heartfelt and thrilling. Se7en was a harrowing thriller that ushered in one of the best directors working today. Finally, The Usual Suspects was a film that was beautifully shot, expertly edited, wonderfully written and introduced us to one of movie history’s best villains.
When one thinks of the scariest and most memorable villains, Hannibal Lector, Darth Vader, The Joker, Norman Bates and even The Wicked Witch of the West comes to mind. but no one ever mentions Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects. Forget about the ending reveal and think of how much of an intimidating villain Soze truly was. During the span of the film’s time, Soze:
- Manipulates a police lineup to get the four guys he needs into one room at a time.
- Kills 27 men to get one witness.
- Scares the hell out of the Hungarian Mob.
- Intimidates some of the hardest criminals of New York and California to do his bidding
- Easily fools all of the law enforcement agencies on his trail
- Keeps his identity a secret from everyone.
- Is made into a mythic figure in the criminal underworld like the boogeyman.
- HE GETS AWAY WITH EVERYTHING!
How can this not be one of the greatest villains in the history of cinema? Yet people are blind to this because they only remember the ending. If the movie revealed that Soze was actually Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) at the start, people could realize how great the character of Soze really was. Soze has been thought of as an untouchable, tough guy, a bad-ass of the highest stature, but he is just a small man who slips in the background easily. Soze is just as memorable as some of the other villains mentioned earlier, but until people can think of more than just the ending, Soze won’t take his place at the table where he rightly belongs.
How this movie exemplifies the 90’s and why it is my pick for best of the decade.
The movie has its share of big cell phones and old recording equipment but how this movie most exemplifies the 90’s is its themes. In the 90’s starting with Pulp Fiction, many of the popular independent movies were about tough guys spouting memorable dialogue in a flashy story. The Usual Suspects was in production when Pulp Fiction hit it big so it wasn’t a movie made because of that success of that film, but it was a movie made in retaliation to the action movies of the 80s/early 90s with big explosions and bigger muscles. The Usual Suspects, like LA Confidential, helped bring back the smart/noir-ish action films that are both great films and well made action pictures. The Usual Suspects also:
- Was the debut of director Bryan Singer whom went on to make X-men and X-2.
- Has my favorite Benecio Del Toro performance, even if he is in very little of the film.
- Made both Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Pollack believable tough guys.
- Was in the middle of Kevin Spacey’s streak of awesome performances starting at Glengary Glen Ross through American Beauty.
- Had a great supporting cast that included Pete Postlethwaite, Giancarlo Esposito and Chazz Palminteri.
- Was also the debut of writer Christopher McQuarrie who went on to make the vastly underrated Way of the Gun.
I love the gritty crime drama genre and The Usual Suspects is one of the best around. The pieces fit together perfectly in the end and it will leave you shocked. The acting was great and Kevin Spacey and the whole cast turn in wonderful performances thanks to the sharp directing and superb script from Singer and company. Finally, the film is one of my favorites of the 90’s because it is a hell of a film that introduces us to one of the most memorable villains of not only the 90s but of film history.