The Usual Suspects, 1995.
Directed by Bryan Singer.
Starring Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite, Kevin Spacey, Suzy Amis, Benicio del Toro, and Giancarlo Esposito.
Having languished for a long time on a not-so-great Blu-ray, The Usual Suspects appears on Blu-ray again with a fresh 4K master, a new bonus feature, and the extras that were kicking around in the DVD days but missed the high-def train. This review is about the Blu-ray, but Kino Lorber has issued the film on 4K Ultra HD too.
Maybe I’m biased because I was in my twenties during the 90s, but it doesn’t seem like we get a lot of films like The Usual Suspects anymore. And by that I mean, a taut thriller with plenty of turns in the plot, a nice twist at the end, and a solid ensemble cast. Or maybe those films still exist but they’re drowned out in all of the noise of the modern streaming era.
In any case, let’s go back to 1995, before director Bryan Singer and cast member Kevin Spacey had their falls from grace. (I’ll admit I don’t know every little detail about the allegations made against both of them, but I have zero tolerance for abusive behavior and believe anyone convincingly accused of such activity deserves to be banned from Hollywood for a while, if not for the rest of their life (depending on the severity of the claims).
Spacey plays Verbal Klint, who opens the movie as the only survivor of a botched robbery of a ship in San Pedro Bay. He and his compatriots — played by Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, Stephen Baldwin, and Benicio del Toro — had boarded the ship only to be thwarted by the mystical Keyser Soze, who Verbal says he saw kill the last member of their group before he escaped.
The film then becomes an extended flashback of Verbal’s interrogation by a federal agent, as we see the group come together and pull of a couple heists. However, one of those thefts was connected to Soze, who sends his lawyer, known only as Kobayashi, to meet with the men and offer them a deal. After much back-and-forth, they decide to take on the mission, which seals the fate of all but one of them.
If you’re watching this film for the first time, keep in mind the idea of the unreliable narrator. What you see in the flashbacks isn’t necessarily what really happened, since it’s a depiction of what Verbal is telling the federal agent. What really happened? We never find out the objective truth of the story, but we do learn that Verbal is more than he seems.
Kino Lorber has commissioned a new 4K master of The Usual Suspects that was color graded and approved by cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. They issued the new master on 4K UltraHD and Blu-ray and sent me a copy of the latter for review. I previously only owned this movie on DVD, but my understanding is that the previously issued Blu-ray left a lot to be desired in the image quality department. This disc, however, is a vast improvement over that one.
I’ve also read that the old Blu-ray contained none of the extras from the two-disc DVD set, so it’s nice to see that Kino Lorber has included all of those bonus features here. (This film is old enough that it probably had a laserdisc release too, so maybe some of the extras date from that era too.) They were shot in standard def way back when, so they’ll be window-boxed on a high-def or 4K TV, but that’s the way it goes.
However, Kino Lorber did include one new extra too, a 17-minute chat with Sigel called The Devil is in the Details, in which he talks about the movie’s shot compositions and lighting, and how he worked with a young Singer to achieve a noir look and feel in a modern film.
Here’s the rest of the extras, which are all archival:
• Two commentary tracks: Director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie take care of one discussion while editor and composer John Ottman tackles the other one. The former is a great example of an informative, lively discussion in which neither participant veers too far off course, nor lets their partner lapse into silence. The latter is a good chat too, but there are a few too many stretches of silence.
• Interview with John Ottman (18 minutes): Ottman also appears in his own interview to talk about the way he used music in the film.
• Pursuing the Suspects (25 minutes): Singer, McQuarrie, and members of the cast discuss how the film came together.
• Doin’ Time with the Suspects (27 minutes): Functioning as a followup to the previous featurette, this one continues the interviews as they talk about the making of the film, complete with some raw onset footage.
• Keyser Soze: Lie or Legend? (19 minutes): Singer and the cast talk about the notorious character, who originally went by a different name based on someone Singer knew. That real person asked for it to be changed lest people attribute movie Keyser Soze’s actions to him.
• Heisting Cannes with The Usual Suspects (5 minutes): The film made a big splash at Cannes, which is on display here.
• Making of Featurette (7 minutes): This is one of those old school EPK (electronic press kit) featurettes that functioned more like hype reels than anything else.
• Deleted scenes (10 minutes): Ottman introduces each scene and explains why it was cut. I wish more deleted scenes were presented this way.
A gag reel, interview outtakes, a pair of trailers, and a batch of TV commercials round out the platter.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★