The Usual Suspects 1.0 stars

Is this a ripple in the inevitable Tarantino backwash? The caper plotline is snipped into nonsequential segments, and the dialogue runs harum-scarum for the four-letter words and their compounds. (Unusually amusing example: five participants in a police lineup performing their different interpretations of "Hand me the keys, you fucking cocksucker.") End, or close to it, of Tarantino correspondences. The emergence of a mythical omniscient shadowy arch villain improbably yclept Keyser Söze -- the mere mention of whose name in underworld circles produces an effect comparable to the mention of E.F. Hutton in old TV ads -- pushes the proceedings more toward Fu Manchu and Prof. Moriarty. And the further the villain emerges from the shadows, the less believable he becomes. In the bigger picture: the more you know of the plot, the less sense it makes. It's too bad, because the assembled actors -- Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Kevin Pollak, Benicio Del Toro, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite -- are vividly individualized, especially visually. And the young director, Bryan Singer, is clearly conscientious and resourceful. Most memorable moment: the two-gun Baldwin patiently lining up two moving targets and taking them out simultaneously. 1995.

Duncan Shepherd

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