DIRECTED BY BRYAN SINGER
STARRING: GABRIEL BYRNE, KEVIN SPACEY, STEPHEN BALDWIN, KEVIN POLLAK, BENICIO DEL TORO, CHAZZ PALMINTERI, GIANCARLO ESPOSITO, SUZY AMIS, PETE POSTELTHWAITE and PETER GREENE
Trust me when I tell you there’s not much to like about ‘the Usual Suspects’, even though you could rise up in arms against me for saying that. The reason is simple, the easiest way out on a breakup – “it’s me, not Mr. McQuarrie” (Christopher McQuarrie, who plays ‘Verbal’ Kint here, having conceived something like this from head to crippled feet). I watched the film ten years too late, after the Nolan-and-Nolan invention ‘Memento’ (2000), which came out as a shock and not just a surprise, for it happened to be watertight. Absurd, definitely. Outrageous too, perhaps. But watertight. Watching ‘the Usual Suspects’ was like watching the Kid grow up when you’ve seen the Man – a disappointment that stemmed from belief that I already knew too much.
So in this painful state of mind where I can’t laud the conceptual originality citing subsequent overuse, I found the scrambled screenplay do nothing to rouse an excitement that was never there. I predicted a Deuce, if not the blatant Double-Bluff that I wished the writer would never throw my way – it’s lame and narrow and terribly one-sided of him to have done that. But then again, it had measure; efforts visible all over the place to float their boat that ultimately left it in a position where there were at least no gaping holes. The occasional bubble-burst was in excessively dramatic acting performances, like the Agent at the Scene of Crime (played by Giancarlo Esposito, who does nothing but pose and smoke) and not to mention our centerfold in form of Kevin Spacey, the mouthpiece of the writer’s ‘genius’ who’s only too obvious in being so – the very Devil that’s supposed to go ‘poof’ seems to have an Invisibility Cloak that’s faulty.
And then there are the clichés thrown in that are characteristic of the era that found the emergence of such names as Quentin Tarantino – the group of Five dominoes, each falling down in succession to facilitate a fair running time of almost a couple of hours, the prospect of a ‘Rat’ with doubts strewn around, the crime(s), the misleaders and yes, the Deuce. Tarantino made sure to shoot his version right in the belly in his off-comical ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992) – and Bryan Singer’s brought him back for regressive revival, post-recovery. And then there’s the one woman in the picture to bring in some soft moments between the blasts in a gangster’s effort to induce emotion. The Italian agent, the accessorized character with such reduced screen-space that he ought to be a cameo. I could just go on listing them all till I hit 50, like Mr. Marquez’s list. Or perhaps not, but that’s another story.
Nevertheless, ‘the Usual Suspects’ definitely had its thrills, but not ones beyond comprehension. Where I thought it failed for me is in the fact that it failed to impress – I mean, I don’t boast that I saw right through it, I tried not to. It still had a fairly-gripping narrative going on, even if redundant at times. It still had its share of punch-lines and turning points, even if I felt I had grown past them all and I saw what would once have been a really good film, which means I saw its sparkle not its shine. It’s kind of too far behind for that.