Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Night at the Oscars Week 10 - The Usual Suspects

Remember last week when I touted the amazing cast of The Green Mile?  This weeks cast is even better.  Don't believe me?  How about this for a collection of scene chewers-

Kevin Spacey - Oscar Winner
Benicio del Toro - Oscar Winner
Pete Postlethwaite - Oscar nominee
Gabriel Byrne- Emmy nominee
Chazz Palminteri - Oscar nominee
and contestant on "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" - Stephen Baldwin.

But seriously, these guys won Best Acting by an Ensemble from the National Board of Review.

To start off, we've got Kevin Pollak, the guy mostly known for his Columbo and Shatner impressions.  He's got some skill, and holds his own in the movie. 

Stephen Baldwin, the mid-level Baldwin, could have been a train wreck.  Most films he is associated with I won't go near.  His job for this film is to be the "wild card" guy, and he does it well.  He seethes with anger when appropriate, and is suprisingly charming in scenes.

I'll give $1 to anyone who can tell me exactly what accent Benicio is speaking with.  When I first watched this movie it drove me nuts.   But it's a bold choice.  This was the first film that really got me to notice him, mostly because I was rewinding the movie to decode his dialogue.  For the short time he was on camera, he inhabited a very interesting character.

Gabriel Byrne was the actor I was most familiar with thanks to his excellent turn in the Coen Brothers underrated film Miller's Crossing.  In this film, he was the perfect mix of arrogance and frustration.  I had no trouble believing that behind his cold eyes could be Keyser Soze. 

And who is left, but Kevin Spacey, who won a well deserved Best Supporting Oscar for his role as Verbal Kint.  The runt of the group, it's hard to see why he was included in this merry band of hooligans because, criminally, he seems  out of his league.

However, as great as the acting is in this movie, that's not what it's known for.  It's claim to fame is "the twist," and it's as good as any dangling Crying Game or dead Bruce Willis Sixth Sense curveball.  For that, credit Oscar winning screenplay writer Christopher McQuarrie.  It's his tight script that keeps you glued, starting from the opening scene. 

What impressed me most about the script, was it was essentially a story about stories.  Everybody in this film has one, and they are constantly sharing with one another.  Past scores, criminal activities, even tales of the dreaded boogyman, "Keyser Soze" are told frequently.  The "action" of the movie is mostly limited to a few brief heists, the rest of the time is spent in conversations, yet it never feels slow.  Listening to Verbal squeal to Agent Kujan is just mesmerizing.

And unlike most films with that "twist," this film just gets better with each viewing.  Far too often, once you know the ending, a rest of this film suffers.  Not The Usual Suspects.  It's like looking at a large photograph of a crowd, filled with too many faces to take in at once.  Watching it again, so much more comes into view.

I'm still waiting for Bryan Singer to make another film worthy of his major debut.  I'm sure you have all seen this film, but how long has it been?

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