The Usual Suspects (1995)

The Usual Suspects (1995) It can be hard to define “superheroic” in the context of movie-going (particularly when the title “superhero” refers to everything from films of men who can hurl a bow and…

The Usual Suspects (1995)

The Usual Suspects (1995)

It can be hard to define “superheroic” in the context of movie-going (particularly when the title “superhero” refers to everything from films of men who can hurl a bow and arrow to movies of people with cashmere kimonos). But nothing succeeds at confusing even the most jaded superhero fan quite like The Usual Suspects, the excellent whodunit directed by Bryan Singer, the work of an unknown actor (Chazz Palminteri) whose deadpan sarcasm helps maintain even the looser, muddier means-and-process conventions of the spy movie.

Bryan Singer directs Keanu Reeves’ David Budd from The Usual Suspects, where Reeves’ world has been destroyed. The secret police at the Homicide Bureau in New York are effectively incapable of tracking down the true culprit. While investigating a double murder, Budd finds himself the prime suspect. He sends his daughter to get his wife and daughter back. When he discovers that Agent Clever (Kevin Spacey) is responsible for both murders, Budd goes on the run.

There’s a sublime fun to being skeptical, and yet even when David Budd questions the principals and compelling evidence, the film lays the groundwork for catastrophe. Why would an intelligent person put on a string vest, don a fedora, and trip down a dark alleyway into an area resembling The Matrix in Brooklyn?

Reeves is an excellent fake who gets off easy thanks to a performance as funny and understated as any in the “superheroes are inherently insane” genre. So it’s a pleasant surprise to find him wholly invested in David Budd, and rewarded with a character that lives up to the wild theories about the “realities” in the films he’s seen in the past few years.

Reeves’ performance is so amazing that we forget how little else is pretty phenomenal here — namely, cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt (to name but one). His ultra-widescreen esthetic, paired with spot-on tone shifts in the way Dialogue works when it’s propped up against shimmering, flipping environments like Keanu’s mind, is everything one could want from a cinematic thriller.

If Usual Suspects taught us anything, it’s that you can’t trust a super-app that tells you it is there for you. So sure, do as David Budd does, and make sure there’s an intertubes for you when theres something more criminal than a power blue in your life.

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