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The Usual Suspects (1995)

Cowardly manipulation and nonexistent mystery embellished out of thin air make up the bulk of The Usual Suspect's justification for existence, and – despite critical praise and absurdly high placement on imdb's Top 250 films list – they don't make a very strong case once all the pieces have settled. A botched crime and subsequent explosion aboard a ship docked in California that leaves many dead lands lone witness Verbal (Kevin Spacey) in a demanding investigators office, easily allowing for roughly thirty minutes worth of plot to be stretched out to feature length as the audience is jerked back and forth between tepid interrogation and UPN-quality flashbacks to earlier heists Verbal took part in with four other prominent henchmen. Dumbasses will be amazed by the film's ultimate twist, but it doesn't take much sniffing around to realize from the outset that some obvious puzzle pieces are being intentionally hidden from sight, if only to conjure a sense of mystery when there really is none in sight. The film condescends its audience by pretending to have far more cards up its sleeve than it actually has, and even if it's crass manipulation actually bore a worthwhile payoff, The Usual Suspects commits further offenses by failing to employ any form of consistency in its perspective-filtered presentation of critical events. In other words, the film might appear crafty in piecemeal (what with such deliberately enunciated, obviously profound dialogue - "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist" - you don't say!), but get up close and the transparency of it all is terribly obvious. Nothing matters save for the orchestration of the final jerk-around, and The Usual Suspects' attempts at such a payoff come across as an atrociously orchestrated bluff.