Last night, an explosion ripped through a dock in San Pedro, California. Detective Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) now has a boatload of dead Hungarians to account for and one club-footed criminal named Verbal (Kevin Spacey) as his only witness. Verbal speaks of that special day when an NYPD line-up met with the usual suspects: himself, Dean Keaton (Gabriel Keaton), Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak) and Fred Fenster (scene-stealer Benicio del Toro). The police have nothing on these guys though they make great henchmen for mystery man Keyser Soze. It’s okay if you lose track of the plot—it’s not long before you’ll realize that none of it really matters. Roger Ebert, in his review of The Usual Suspects, said that he prefers to be amazed by motivation, not manipulation. Now, if you’ve approached The Usual Suspects expecting to be hit over the head, it may not be too difficult for you to spot Keyser Soze. Singer and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, though, don’t want you to find Waldo. Despite the convoluted narrative, The Usual Suspects makes perfect sense. If you can smell the con job a mile away, you may jump right before Singer pulls the rug out from under you. Singer’s engagement of noir idiom is too lightweight to propel McQuarrie’s punchy meta-narrative beyond inconsequentiality. The Usual Suspects has always kind of sat there, hoping that you’ll love it for its twist ending. “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Yeah, that sounds about right.
The Usual Suspects is presented in this DVD special edition in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2:35:1 and now it’s easy to see why the film has always looked better than it sounded. Even if you don’t buy the film as a meta-noir, Newton Thomas Sigel’s noir lighting is top-rate. Shadow details and skin colors are also great to look at. John Ottman’s conventional yet energetic score was specifically designed to stand side-by-side with Sigel’s impressive camerawork. The score sounds fuller than ever and while Ottman gets the job done, The Usual Suspects is still all about the dialogue, which remains pleasantly clear on this transfer.
This DVD-14 disc of The Usual Suspects carries on one side the widescreen and full-screen transfers of the film, along with two feature-length audio commentaries. The disc’s second side comes replete with a wide array of extras including five featurettes, a gag reel and deleted scenes. Director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie’s commentary is unbelievably engaging though it seems to support the notion that they had little more than gimmicks up their sleeves: according to Singer, the premise for the film originated from his concept for the film’s poster. The film itself was written for Kevin Spacey, who wanted to work with Singer and McQuarrie after seeing Public Access. Even their discussion of Giancarlo Esposito’s super-cool detective confirms their dubious engagement of noir. A second commentary track with editor/composer John Ottman is considerably more passionate. The Usual Suspects is the kind of film that’s always seemed more fascinating from an editing standpoint and Ottman goes on at length about his carefully calibrated sound cues. More importantly, he reveals his concern for the professional sound of the film’s score when the film began to look less like an independent film and more like a Hollywood blockbuster. "Doing Time with the Suspects" openly extols Benicio del Toro’s scene-stealing talents and how his superior acting abilities may have actually undermined the film’s narrative flow (or, at least, made a few of the film’s actors a tad resentful.) "Keyser Soze - Lie or Legend" is most notable for celebrating the many layers of Spacey’s performance.
A top-notch DVD package from the folks at MGM Home Entertainment. This one may be for the fans but it’s great to know you can play this film again and again and admire how Singer and McQuairre expertly lay out their traps.