March 21, San Francisco, CA: I first watched The Usual Suspects at the behest of my high school buddy Nick Castaneda, with whom I left Florida to go to film school. This is the perfect movie for first year undergraduate film students: all of the formalistic (and perhaps heavy-handed) expressions of the craft. Each transition in time marked with a visual device: the cave mouth to the coffee cup, the matched jib shots rising above the San Pedro docks, the rag thrown into the camera to black. Nick and I totally borrowed that last one for a movie we made in high school. (Nick borrowed it, I should say; he was the director.)
The movie is a lot of fun. Great actors and a wonderful screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie— the sort of intricate plotting that makes a heist movie REALLY good. And he pulls it off. That first Kayser Soze reveal, the first time you ever see the movie, holy crap it’s good!
And Bryan Singer, the man who brings us that heavy-handed formalism, well Nick and I just thought he was the high king of shit mountain (“shit mountain” being of course the popular name for the heap upon which American filmmakers are placed and ranked— AFI runs the program). The Usual Suspects seemed to be a movie that a director of note has left his mark upon! As I matured though, I soured on Singer. I rushed out to see Apt Pupil and left it very unsatisfied. X-Men? One solid “Hmph” from this longtime reader of the comics. He’s a talented filmmaker, but he’s no auteur. The Usual Suspects, like the men it depicts, was a happy accident of a confluence of talent.
Guess who has this movie in their giant warehouses? Amazon, duh!