Re-watching the Classics: The Usual Suspects

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.

I can’t believe this film is 20 years old this year!  The Usual Suspects is one of the great modern neo-noir movies and launched the career of director Bryan Singer into the stratosphere.

This film is known for it’s all-star cast, and it is a great cast, but where they all-stars when this film was made?  Kevin Spacey was a great actor before this film, but wasn’t in much you would have heard of.  Though I loved Swimming with Sharks, most probably never heard of this film.  This film gave him an Oscar win and made him a big name in Hollywood.  Benicio Del Toro did some T.V. work and few movies before this as well, but as the scene stealing Fenster his star meter went up drastically.  Kevin Pollak was already a star as a stand up comedian, but this movie showed his dramatic side.  Pollak has worked steady ever since, bouncing from comedic to dramatic roles.  Alec’s little brother Stephen Baldwin was doing well and may have been considered a big star at the time.  His star power has dimmed in recent years, but he showed some great presence in this film.  Gabriel Byrne was probably the biggest draw for this film at the time of its release, and was excellent as always.  Chazz Palminteri plays his usual Italian tough guy from New York in this film and it fits perfectly.

Our story starts out with our Usual Suspects all getting arrested in connection to a load of gun parts being hijacked.  They quickly become good friends and team up together on some more heists.  The whole story is told in flashback fashion from Kevin Spacey’s character Verbal being interrogated in a police station in Los Angels.  Our plot thickens as new evidence becomes available and they ask Verbal more questions on what happened.  As the audience we want to know the answers as much as the police do.  What is going on?  What was really on the boat?  Who got away alive?  and of course Who is Keyser Söze?

I’m not going to lie, I love Singer’s X-men films, but what would really make me happy is if he made another neo noir film.  This is a film you can watch over and over again and find little hints and clues to one of the greatest mysteries in movie history.

Favorite Tidbit: **semi-spoiler alert**  As this film was being made, all the actors were told “they are Keyser Söze.”  None of them learned the truth until the first screening of the movie.

Re-watching the Classics: A Fresh Look at Miller’s Crossing

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Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, the Coen Brothers, neo noir legends that have made so many classic modern noir films it’s hard to pick a favorite.  This is not me picking my favorite of Coen Brothers film, this is me reviewing the one I think is the most underrated.  After their debut Blood Simple and before the Oscar-winning Fargo, both classics, they made a small movie called Miller’s Crossing.  The Coen’s used a mishmash of noir legend Dashiell Hammett books to write this story.

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Gabriel Byrne plays our hero, a gangster with a gambling problem.  He’s the right hand man of the boss played by Albert Finney.  Both of them are in love with our femme fatale Verna, played by Marcia Gay Harden.  The plot is further complicated by Verna’s brother, played by John Turturro, who is always in trouble and Verna is using anybody and everybody to protect him.  A boxing match is being fixed by competing gangster Johnny Casper played by Joe Polito, but somebody is leaking the information.  We see cameo’s by Steve Buscemi and Frances McDormand, Coen Brother favorites, and a cool cameo from director Sam Raimi.  J.E. Freeman as the Dane and Mike Starr as Frankie play great heavies.

This story is full of plot twists you don’t see coming in classic noir style.  It takes place in the late 1920’s maybe early 1930’s, we have corrupt cops, back stabbing gangsters, gamblers, murder, great dialog, and sets.  If you like the Coen Brothers and have not seen this movie it, do it!  Great film worth a viewing.