(Bryan Singer - 1995)
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Studio: Polygram, Spelling, Blue Parrot, Bad Hat Harry / Fox Home Entertainment (USA)
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Feature film: 1080p / MPEG 2 @ 20 Mbps
1 disc: BD25 single-layer
English: DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio
Spanish: DD 2.0 Surround
French: DD 2.0 Surround
English SHD, English and Spanish
Standard Blu-ray case.
Release Date: February 13, 2007
The Usual Suspects
A catchy title, is it not? The Importance of Being Earnest and Much Ado About Nothing would also have worked, but they were already taken. I missed this movie when it came out in 1995, but on the recommendation of an enthusiastic friend, I watched it in rapt attention on DVD just a few years later. The Usual Suspects is a clever movie. The screenplay, the story and editing, and not least the performances (Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byren, and a young and quirky Benicio Del Toro, especially) keep the unsuspecting audience – and, the unsuspecting US Customs agent (played by Chazz Palminteri with that kind of righteous certainty that makes us root for the bad guy) riveted. As the multidirectional plot unfolds we are led to want to know the identity of the mysterious Keizer Sozé – the man we presume was responsible for the deaths of all but two of the conspirators and a score of other bad guys. We hang on every word of the only verbal witness as he describes in detail how the gang was formed, how they carried out this and other plans, and how they were undone by Sozé. We are directed this way and that: Maybe it's this person, maybe that. Maybe a man, maybe a woman. Maybe "he" is alive. Maybe dead. Maybe he never existed.
The most likely suspect, of course, is the survivor himself, but we rule him out because we hear the voice of "Sozé" at the beginning, and clearly it isn't Spacey's. Images of Forrest Gump may pass through our mind, but it's the voice that nails it. Anyone can fake a limp, if that's your intention, we think. In this connection, I'm reminded of the opening scene in Basic Instinct. Even though seen from behind, there is no question that this body does not belong to Jeanne Tripplehorn – and since she and Sharon Stone are the only suspects, what's all the fuss about the script pointing the finger at Jeanne's character. Stone is the killer, and that's all there is to it. Watch the opening scene of The Usual Suspects again and ask yourself: Why is this guy disguising his voice? The person he's about to kill already recognizes him! "Sozé" doesn't need to say anything at that moment. The only reason he speaks is so that the director can throw us off the track. It's disrespectful of both his audience and the genre, and cynical to boot.
The Usual Suspects
The Score Card
The Movie : 6
The story is told to Customs Agent Kujan in jagged flashbacks by Verbal Kint (Spacey) following his narrow escape with death at the hands of Sozé. He's a believable, if initially reluctant witness. Kint spins a dizzying tale – harder to follow than The Big Sleep – filled with rouses and double crosses. Lurking in the background is the sadistic and mysterious Keizer Sozé, who seems to be pulling more strings than Leonard Susskind. Along the way, we meet the other "suspects" - why "usual" I haven't a clue (uh, right, it's just another distraction) - and various police agents played with meaty flair by the likes of Kevin Pollak, Stephen Baldwin and Dan Hedaya and Pete Postlethwaite as the daring Kobayashi, played with the kind of confidence you can usually find only at the gates of heaven.
Image : 8.5 (8.5/9.5)
The score of 8.5 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.
The Blu-ray edition is a huge improvement over past DVD presentations, and comes close to what we might have seen in the theatre a dozen years ago. I thought the picture was sharper than I had any reason to expect it to be – not because of its age, but because I wouldn't have expected that sharpness of image was something particularly needed. But here it is. And I was grateful.
Audio & Music : 8
While no showstopper, I found the audio to be better than adequate. Not especially dynamic, but it doesn’t really need to be. The dialogue comes through clearly whenever we need to know what was going on, which is often, despite the efforts of screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie to twist our brains like pretzels.
Empathy : 8
I found that, except for the fact that Singer's deliberate and unnecessary deception in the opening scene, the image and audio came together for me and kept me involved.
Operations : 7
The menu is rather Spartan, considering the opportunity presented by the Blu=ray medium. The only really. Everything works. The thumbnails didn't always capture the essence of the corresponding scene – chapter titles would have been nice.
Extras : 0
No Extras – unless you count the nine trailers in various states of HD. . . . which leads directly to the question of value. The suggested retail of this title is $39.95, the same price we'd expect form a fully loaded 2 disc whatever. And all we get is a rock-solid transfer of an over-rated movie. Thus the recommendation that follows.