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The Usual Suspects (SE)
DVD disk
10.08.2004 By: Mike Sampson
The Usual Suspects (SE) order
Director:
Bryan Singer

Actors:
Gabriel Byrne
Kevin Spacey
Benicio Del Toro

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After the hijacking of a docked yacht ends in an explosion killing all but one aboard, police try to figure out why the heist, purportedly to lift $91 million of dollars worth of cocaine, took place considering there were no drugs or money onboard. A crippled accomplice and the only eyewitness is questioned relentlessly by an ambitious detective in search of answers. Slowly, the details of the six weeks (and exactly what happened aboard the yacht) become more clear as the story of a team of five veteran criminals is told in vivid flashback. All the while, we hear about this mystery man named Keyser Soze who engineered the whole thing.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
If you haven't seen this movie or had the misfortune of having it spoiled for you, STOP READING THIS RIGHT NOW and quickly rush to your local video rental store and watch it. In reviewing the film and the DVD, spoilers are bound to be spilled...

I first saw THE USUAL SUSPECTS on a crappy VHS tape while in my Sophomore year of college. I had wanted to see it in the theater and figured now was as good a time as any. I borrowed the tape from a friend and finally, at about 1:30am, popped it into the VCR. After it was over (around 3:30-ish) I sat in bed with my mouth literally wide-open in disbelief. I wanted SO bad to turn to someone and just go "Hoooooo-leeeee SHIT!" but at that hour, my roommate was long asleep and no one else was around. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep that night as I was forced to sit and stew in my own juices for the new few hours figuring out exactly what I just saw. In all honesty, one of the most memorable movie-watching experiences I've had in my life. I had no idea there would be a "surprise ending" and actually was quite surprised and satisfied enough with the fake "Gabriel Byrne is the bad guy" ending. But when Kevin Spacey slowly started to lose his limp, I myself started to lose my shit.

If a movie can make Stephen Baldwin come off cool, you know it's got to be good. And if Stephen Baldwin is good, you know that the rest of the cast is gonna be spectacular. I'm sure you know this film and the role of Verbal Kint won Kevin Spacey his first Oscar, so I don't need to tell you how good he is. With Spacey aside, pay attention to Benicio Del Toro in one of his first major film roles. His accent was so unique, bizarre and convincing, I had no idea what he actually sounded like in real life. Add to that, you've got strong performances by Gabriel Byrne, Pete Posthelwaite, and Chazz Palminteri. Just as memorable as the acting is the Academy-Award winning work of screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie. His story weaves in and out so seamlessly, only the most astute gumshoes will realize exactly what's going on. He manages to spin a smart, neo-noir tale without the Tarantino pop-culture references (which were quite en vogue at the time). Anyone who pretends to know everything that happened and completely comprehend it at the first go around is lying. Much like another new detective classic, MEMENTO, It takes at least two viewings before you can pretend to know all the complexities of the plot.

Last but not least, you've got the direction of Bryan Singer. You had to know this guy was going on to bigger things (X-MEN) after watching how he handled this film. A lesser director could've gummed up the works, but he lets things flow and most importantly, doesn't over-direct the script. He knows his strength is in the plot, the characters, and the actors and plays all the cards right. Nothing is "dumbed down" for the sake of the audience and all this helps achieve on the finest heist/crime-drama/whodunnit films of the modern-era.
THE EXTRAS
Boy oh boy, there are extras galore! Actually there aren't that many extras but here it's quality over quantity. The highlight of the disc is easily the five original featurettes that feature the cast and crew fondly recalling their days before, during and after filming. All major players took part and it was a real blast to hear them talk about the movie, each other, their inspirations and so on. There's an option to watch each one separately or all at once and I recommend the latter. They seam together nicely and if you've got the time (combined they run over an hour and fifteen minutes) it's a great way to go behind-the-scenes of the film. The first two featurettes, "Pursuing the Suspects" and "Doin' Time with the Suspects" were the ones I enjoyed the most as they talked about how each actor was convinced to join the production and what exactly went on when filming finally began. Lots of great insight from Singer, Spacey and Byrne; Pollak provides the humor; Benicio seems a bit uncomfortable at times (he says "like" about a hundred times) but eventually warms up; and even Steven Baldwin manages to speak coherently for the entire time. The third featurette, "Keyser Soze: Lie or Legend" has interviews with the same players about how the myth of Soze evolved (originally it was Keyser Some, pronounced so-may) and what each of them thought about the character. This one was pretty cool because they detail some of the really minute clues placed through the film. You'll really respect Spacey's work as an actor after watching this one!

The last two featurettes aren't as long or great as the first three but are still somewhat fun to watch. "Heisting Cannes with the Usual Suspects" is basically some behind-the-scenes footage of the guys promoting the movie at the Cannes Film Festival. Here you get to see Kevin Pollak bitching about answering the same questions over and over. Finally is the original featurette created by Polygram to promote the film. Nothing very special here and nothing you haven't seen or learned in either of the previous three.

The disc also includes two audio commentary tracks - one featuring Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie and the other featuring editor/composer John Ottman. The Singer/McQuarrie track is a whole lot of fun as you can tell these guys have been buddies for a while. They chat fondly about things that still frustrate them about the movie, goofy stories from the set and all sorts of things. Ottman generally sticks to all things technical but it's still a fun listen to hear about the different montages and how/why they were cut together.

Next, were the new deleted scenes that were added on, which actually weren't as long as I had hoped. As usual with deleted or extended scenes, you understand why they were cut in the first place. They've each got an introduction by Ottman explaining why they were cut. The best scene explained why the boat exploded in the first place (won't give that away here). The rest are just so-so.

The Gag Reel was one feature I looked forward to but it wasn't exactly what I had expected. I still found it funny but if you're going in looking for straight bloopers, you'll be disappointed. It's actually a weird montage of clips set to a tongue-in-cheek rap about Keyser Soze that was created by Singer for the cast and crew wrap party. The theatrical trailer is introduced by Ottman who explains how the studio cut trailer attempting to parlay on the success of PULP FICTION and make the film appear as it was something it really wasn't. He instead cut a new trailer and as it turns out, the studio liked his much better. Also included are 8 TV commercials and an international trailer. There are also advertised easter eggs, but I didn't find any (truth be told, I didn't look very long).
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Even if you own the standard edition USUAL SUSPECTS DVD (which I do), I still suggest you head out and buy this special edition. You could always use another drink coaster, right? Nothing about the new disc will disappoint and it's a must-have for any film lovers' collection. If you loved the film, you'll be just as fascinated by all the new footage and if you just liked the film, you'll find yourself with a newfound appreciation. My only minor complaint was how they stuck everything on one disc, making you flip it over when you want to view the film or extras. But all in all, one of the best DVDs I've had the pleasure to watch in a long time. A great film finally gets the treatment it deserves and you owe it to yourself to buy it and watch it over and over and over and over and over...
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