The Usual Suspects Movie Interpretation
The Usual Suspects isn’t a hard movie to figure out, but that doesn’t stop people from searching for “Usual Suspects analysis” and “Usual Suspects explanation.” If you’re scratching your head after seeing this Academy Award-winning heist film, be sure to keep reading. And if you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to hold off on reading this until you do. That’s because spoilers lurk around every corner, so don’t say you haven’t been warned.
The Usual Suspects hit theaters in 1995, and it was shot on a $6 million budget and inspired by the famous line from Claude Raines in Casablanca. The film made over $23 million at the box office, and it would net Oscars for Kevin Spacey (Best Supporting Actor) and Christopher McQuarrie (Best Original Screenplay).
The Usual Suspects
The film revolves around five cons who meet in a police line-up, so let’s begin by taking a look at each:
- Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) – A former dirty cop who’s trying to go straight. He once faked his own death to avoid an investigation.
- Roger “Verbal” Kint (Kevin Spacey) – A con artist with cerebral palsy. Walks with a limp.
- Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin) – A professional thief with a short temper.
- Fred Fenster (Benicio del Toro) – A professional thief who pulls jobs with McManus and speaks in broken English.
- Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak) – An ill-tempered criminal who specializes in hijacking.
The Usual Suspects Plot
Con artist Verbal Kint is the survivor of a massacre at the harbor of San Pedro Bay, and he’s interrogated by U.S. Customs Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri). Wanting to know the whole story, Kujan convinces Kint to talk. Since he’s already gotten near immunity, Kint obliges by starting the tale six weeks earlier when five cons meet one another in a line-up.
While sitting in a cell, they decide to team up and rob corrupt members of the New York City police department. Then they’re off to L.A. to fence their loot, and they get talked into pulling a job. The assignment goes bad, and they wind up stealing heroin (even though they were told it was jewels).
Soon after, they’re blackmailed into pulling a job for Keyser Soze, a mythical crime figure with a fearsome reputation in the criminal underworld. They are to head to the docks and destroy a shipment of cocaine, and they also have the option to stick around and take the $91 million that the buyers are supposed to be bringing.
When they begin their assault on the docks, the members of the group are picked off by a mysterious man. Verbal is the only member to survive, which leads us back to the present. Satisfied with his story, the agent allows Verbal to leave.
Sitting in the office, the agent soon realizes that much of the story was a fabrication, as Kint had taken story details from items on the walls and desk of the office. He races to catch up with him, but Kint has already managed to get into a waiting car and escape.
The Usual Suspects Explained
Those looking for the Usual Suspects meaning shouldn’t have to think too hard. There’s really not a lot of subtext or symbolism to wade through, and the ending is pretty cut-and-dried. So if you’re looking for some sort of Usual Suspects interpretation, you’ll need to go to a site that’s far more pretentious than this one. Ask a fan of Black Swan; they can probably give you a recommendation.
It is fun, however, to try and remember all the lies told by Verbal Kint throughout the film. For those of you who are too lazy, here’s a list of lies told and what inspired them.
- Keyser Soze – A legendary figure in the criminal underworld. Sort of like the bogeyman for cons.
- Barbershop Quarter in Skokie, Illinois – Kint made up this lie after seeing the words “Quartet, Skokie, Il” on a pinboard in the room where he was being interrogated.
- Bricks Marlin – “Bricks” comes from a name on the pinboard, while “Marlin” comes from a picture of a man standing beside a marlin he caught fishing.
- Redfoot - Taken from the name “Redfoot” on the pinboard. A picture of an obese person inspired the description that Redfoot is “orca fat.”
- Mr. Kobayashi – Kobayashi is written on the bottom of the coffee mug used by the agent interrogating Kint.
- Picking Beans in Guatemala – The word “Guatemala” is found on the pinboard.
The Usual Suspects Ending
There’s no chance that the audience will truly know the truth about Keyser Soze until Agent Kujan begins to puzzle things out in the closing minutes of the film. By this time, of course, Kint is already outside of the police station and moments away from being a free man. While some may feel that director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie have manipulated and deceived the audience, please note that it was ultimately Agent Kujan’s mind that betrayed us (and him).
That wraps up our Usual Suspects movie interpretation, and I hope you’ll agree that this film is one of the most clever and inventive to come down the pipe in quite some time. While other sites might want to blow smoke up your ass with all kinds of Usual Suspects analysis and Usual Suspects meaning, we humbly strive to cut through all the pretentious nonsense and take the film for what it is: an entertaining neo-noir that keeps viewers guessing right up until the end, but concludes with an explanation that’s both logical and easy to grasp.