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The Usual Suspects (Digibook Version) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 20, 2011 by  



While “The Usual Suspects” on Blu-ray is a barebones release like it’s 2007 release, this 2011 re-release with a digibook makes it much easier for me to say that this film is worth watching, but also a Blu-ray release worth owning.

Images courtesy of © 1995 Initial Productions, S.A. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Usual Suspects

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1995

DURATION: 106 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

RATED: UNRATED (Note: This is the unrated uncut version featuring explicit footage not seen in theaters)

COMPANY: UA/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc./Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2011

Directed by Bryan Singer

Written by Christopher McQuarrie

Produced by Michael McDonnell, Bryan Singer

Co-Produced by Kenneth Kokin

Executive Producer: Hans Brockmann, Francois Duplat, Art Horan, Robert Jones

Music by John Ottman

Cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel

Edited by John Ottman

Casting by Francine Maisler

Production Design by Howard Cummings

Art Direction by David Lazan

Set Decoration by Sara Andrews

Costume Design by Louise Mingenbach

Starring:

Stephen Baldwin as Michael McManus

Gabriel Byrne as Dean Keaton

Benicio Del Toro as Fred Fenster

Kevin Pollak as Todd Hockney

Kevin Spacey as Roger “Verbal” Kint

Chazz Palminteri as Dave Kujan, US Customs

Pete Postlethwaite as Kobayashi

Giancarlo Esposito as Jack Baer, FBI

Suzay Amis as Edie Finneran

Dan Hedaya as Sgt. Jeffrey “Jeff” Rabin

A $91 million cocaine heist. A devastating boat explosion. Two survivors. U.S. Customs special agent David Kujan is determined to find out who and what’s behind the melee. As he pieces the clues together with the help of a half-charred Hungarioan gangster and an outspoken, crippled con man from New York, he soon finds out this story actually begins with five criminal minds…and infamous mastermind.

Who is Keyser Soze?

Posters and commercials to promote “The Usual Suspects” seemed to work as this 1995 low-budget $6 million dollar film from the new and young filmmaker Bryan Singer ( who would go on to to direct the first two “X-Men” films and “Superman Returns”) and written by Christopher McQuarrie (“Valkyrie”, “The Tourist”, “The Way of the Gun”).

The film would not only receive critical praise, but it earned Kevin Spacey his first Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actor” and McQuarrie an award for “Best Original Screenplay”.

The film would receive a DVD and also a Blu-ray release back in 2007 and now, the Blu-ray will be released by Twentieth Century Fox once again in 2011 but this time in a digibook format featuring cast profiles and two short essays.

“The Usual Suspects” begins with a person identified as Keyser speaking to an injured man named Keaton (played by Daniel Byrne) and the two talk and ends with Keyser shooting Keaton and then the ship set ablaze.

FBI agent Jack Baer (played by Giancarlo Esposito) and U.S. Customs special agent Dave Kuan (played by Chazz Palminteri) are sent to San Pedro to investigate and learn than there were two survivors, a man named Roger “Verbal” Kint (played by Kevin Spacey) and a Hungarian criminal named Arkosh Kovash.

Kovash tells Baer that a man named Keyser Soze, a Turkish criminal was in the harbor and killed many men and police work on a sketch of who Soze is.

Meanwhile, Verbal has agreed to testify about the incident for total immunity, so Verbal begins his story and tells San Pedro Police Sergeant Jeffrey Rabin (played by Dan Hedaya) of how he met a group of criminals during a police lineup.  The men were Dean Keaton (played by Gabriel Byrne) who is a former police officer turned criminal; Michael McManus (played by Stephen Baldwin), a professional thief; Fred Fenster (played by Benicio del Toro) who works with McManus and can’t speak English that well; Todd Hockney (played by Kevin Pollak) who is a hijacker.

As the group are in a cell together, McManus tries to convince the others to join forces and rob New York’s Finest Taxi Service (which are corrupt NYPD who escort smugglers around the city).

As the group robs them successfully, they go to Los Angeles and are confronted by McManus’ fence named “Redfoot” (played by Peter Greene).  Redfood tells them about another job to rob a jewel dealer and so, the group decide to pull of their next major robbery.

But what happened on this day of the robbery that left only two men alive?  And who is this killer… Keyser Soze?

VIDEO:

“The Usual Suspects” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1) and it is important to know that this 2011 Blu-ray is the same exact Blu-ray that was released back in 2007.  The good news is that the there is good contrast, colors are vibrant, skin tones are natural and blacks are nice and deep.  There are sometimes of white speckling but for the most part, anyone hoping for any change from the 2007 Blu-ray release are not going to see any major improvement but overall, PQ is very good but if you own this Blu-ray release already, there is nothing new PQ-wise, it’s pretty much the same Blu-ray disc that you already own.

Otherwise, for those who enjoy the film and have never owned the film on Blu-ray before, you’ll find the PQ to be very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Usual Suspects” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono and French Dolby Surround.   The original 2007 Blu-ray was not exactly immersive but the ending action sequences were good, just not great.  But for the most part, dialogue is very clear and the action-sequences sounds very good but I have no doubt that knowing what Blu-ray collector’s expect years after Blu-ray was introduced, I would have no doubt that the lossless soundtrack could be better.

Still, this film is much better than its DVD counterpart in the fact that you do get a lossless soundtrack and the dialogue is much clearer, but don’t expect the gunfire and explosions to fully utilize the surround channels or LFE all that much.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Usual Suspects” comes with one special feature and that is the theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

“The Usual Suspects” comes with a 28-page digibook which includes profiles and the following essays “The Unusual Allure of the Usual Suspects” by Richard Tanne and “Spoiler alert: The Ending that Shook the World” by Travis Baker.

There is no doubt that “The Usual Suspects” was one of the better low-budget films that the studio took an active approach by promoting it around metropolitan areas with the mysterious “Who is Kaizer Soze?” slogan on bus stops and publications.  But this is a case, similar to the previous year’s “Leaving Las Vegas” for of a low-budget film gaining popularity via word of mouth and eventually making money and also earning nominations and Academy Awards for Kevin Spacey and writer Kevin McQuarrie.

The film has that final moment of “holy S$#t!” that surprises the viewer and similar to films such as “The Shawshank Redemption” in 1994, the surprise ending and the final reveal was quite intriguing to watch.  In fact, this is one film that one would want to watch again to see how many of the clues were featured in the overall film that you didn’t catch first time.

Also, one of the high points of the film is its talented cast of people you probably don’t care much for but you do enjoy how convincing they are as criminals.  Gabriel Byrne (“In Treatment”, “Miller’s Crossing”, “End of Days”) is excellent as the former cop turned criminal.  Cold, calculating demeanor, you know there is something a bit off with this guy.

Stephen Baldwin (“The Young Riders”, “Born on the Fourth of July”) is much more tolerable then as an actor as he was able to play the Gung Ho Michael McManus who has a short fuse.

The film also showcased emerging actors Benicio del Toro (“Snatch”, “Traffic”, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”)  in the hilarious role of a criminal who no one can understand, Kevin Pollak (“Casino”, “A Few Good Men”) who plays the crazy man that likes to piss people off and of course, Kevin Spacey who would reap the benefits from his role in “The Usual Supsects” and would go on to star in “L.A. Confidential” (1997) and “American Beauty” (1999), the film which he would win his second Academy Award.

Featuring a well-written, clever plot by Christopher McQuarrie and a solid second film for Bryan Singer, “The Usual Suspects” had the elements to become the great hit that it was.

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned earlier, the Blu-ray itself is no different from its earlier 2007 Blu-ray release.  If there is one thing that bummed me out about that is the lack of special features.  Bryan Singer is known for wanting a lot of special features on video releases and it’s a shame that there is not one included in this release but the trailer.  Fortunately, Twentieth Fox released this as a digibook, so you do get extras in terms of the cool essays and profiles included in the book and thus, it makes this the better Blu-ray version to own.

Overall, “The Usual Suspects” had one hell of a unique storyline with a twist that made audiences gasp back then and I have no doubt that for those who have never watched the film and see it for the first time, will be surprised.  It’s an excellent film and it’s worth checking out.

While this is a barebones release and I rarely recommend Blu-rays that hardly have any content, the digibook does make things a bit easier and I recommend checking this Blu-ray out!

 






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